In a democracy, every person has a single vote. Unfortunately, what is becoming increasingly true is that someone with millions of dollars and the willingness to fund front groups has the ability to influence millions of votes.
Take the issue of the Iraq War – by any and every national poll, millions of Americans want the war to stop as they see through the lies that got us in the war, the lies that have kept us in the war and now with even the Iraqi leadership asking we leave, the vast majority of Americans see no reason to fund billions on dollars in war every month.
However, despite their wishes and their votes, the wishes of the people are countered by the wishes of the few, or in today’s example, the wishes of one, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson is one of the very few wealthy “behind-the-scenes” manipulators that set up phony front groups and fund them with millions and millions of dollars to pollute our country’s discourse, smear people, spread fear and lies and the worst kinds of dirty stories. Every politician knows that this ugliness could be directed at them if they dare try to fight this kind of power.
Where do these Republican, pro-war front groups get so much money?
In a recent story about Vets for Freedom’s new campaign in support of Republican Presidential candidate John McCain, the Virginia-Pilot quoted VFFs Chairman Pete Hegseth on donor disclosure.
Vets for Freedom’s efforts are being fueled by donations from thousands of people nationwide, Hegseth said. He said the group will not release donors’ names nor the size of their donations. The group is registered under a section of federal tax law that allows it to advertise and organize on behalf of particular policies while maintaining the confidentiality of its donors.
Donations to political campaigns or political action committees, by contrast, generally must be reported and are limited by law.
Thousands of donations? We looked up Vets for Freedom’s reporting records and found a total of five (5) donors and $2,050 total donations in the most recent period they reported. This reporting is for their “527” committee, which is legally allowed to ” influence the nomination, election, appointment or defeat of candidates for public office” but is not allowed to coordinate with any candidate’s campaign. However, their 501c4 charity arm, the part of the group that does not have to report its donors, can not legally do any of those things.
So what’s the takeaway? On one hand, we have a 527 group with a total of $2,050 in donations, not enough to pay for Mark Penn’s coffee break, and on the other we have a charity that legally can not be involved in direct political action? What’s happening?
Well if you have “thousands” of mystery donors unreported but supporting John McCain’s campaign and suddenly, a small fringe front group with just 5 real donors has over $1.5 million dollars to run a television campaign and there are plans for a major push this fall.
We’re betting this is nothing more than a conduit for one or two very large donations intended to get around election law to the benefit of candidate McCain.
The Washington Post‘s blog The Trail tried to pin Hegseth down on why this “non-election” group is advertising with McCain’s message in swing states important to McCain, and only just before an election with McCain as a candidate.
From the story,
Hegseth said his group is not operating on behalf of McCain and notes that federal law prohibits the organization from coordinating the ad with the campaign. The states were chosen, he said, not because they are crucial swing states for McCain, but because the heightened interest in the election in those states will give it a larger audience.
What Hegseth didn’t mention is that VFF’s ads were bought immediately after the McCain Campaign stopped advertising.
What Hegseth didn’t mention is that VFF is supporting candidates across the country, but surprise, none of the Iraq War or Vietnam veterans who are running like Jon Powers or Charlie Brown.
What Hegseth didn’t mention is that there are real veterans groups with real veterans signing real petitions and supporting a candidate, only those real veterans, are supporting Barack Obama.
The only thing Hegseth could do was concede that the message in the ad is almost identical to McCain’s on the stump — the surge worked; let’s continue the war until we win. He said McCain has been the “strongest advocate” for the veterans of the two wars.
Which is about as believable as McCain’s claim that real veterans groups support him.
This piece originally appeared on The Patriot Project
Wade Zirkle, Executive Director of Vets for Freedom Action Fund was invited last week to present a “free speech” commentary segment on the national TV “news” show CBS Evening News With Katie Couric. There is a problem with this. Vets for Freedom Action Fund is a “527” group – a campaign organization that appears to exist soley to support one candidate – Joe Lieberman’s Connecticut campaign for the Senate. So Zirkle’s presentation was not “commentary,” by definition it was a campaign speech supporting a partisan cause, delivered to a national audience a few weeks before an election.
CBS identifies Vets for Freedom Action Fund as a “bipartisan” organization. But it is not. Vets for Freedom Action Fund is entirely founded and controlled by Republican Party-aligned individuals, and its formation follows a pattern of formation of Party-aligned front groups for election-campaign purposes. In the August post Behind the Front: The Creation of Vets for Freedom, Patriot Project exposed Vets for Freedom as a Republican front group. From that post,
This "non-partisan" organization’s website was designed by The Donatelli Group/Campaign Solutions, which previously had worked with the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, as well as the White House-associated Judicial Confirmation Network, yet another well-financed, party-affiliated front group. Other Donatelli Group/Campaign Solutions clients include Bush-Cheney 2004, The Republican National Committee, the 2004 Republican National Convention…
The "non-partisan" Vets for Freedom originally had a privacy statement on their website that read, "We may from time to time share the information our visitors provide with other Republican candidates and other like-minded organizations."
The "non-partisan" Vets for Freedom included William Denman "Wade" Zirkle, who had helped run Republican Jerry Kilgore’s 2005 campaign for governor of Virginia, and was campaign manager for Republican Todd Gilbert’s 2005 race for the Virginia House of Delegates.
Because Vets for Freedom is a political, Party-affiliated election-campaign "527" organization supporting Joe Lieberman’s Senate Connecticut bid, CBS’ contribution of several minutes of airtime may be an improper corporate campaign contribution.