Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Astroturf Politics

Now that Ryan Sager has let the cat out of the bag on how campaign finance reform was bought and paid for by a few liberal organizations, more is coming out on this. John Fund at Opinion Journal has some more in his article on how liberal foundations fooled Congress into passing McCain-Feingold.

"What Mr. Treglia revealed in a talk last year at the University of Southern California is that far from representing the efforts of genuine grass-roots activists, the campaign finance reform lobby was controlled and funded by liberal foundations like Pew. In a tape obtained by the New York Post, Mr. Treglia tells his USC audience they are going to hear a story he can reveal only now that campaign finance reform has become law. "The target audience for all this [foundation] activity was 535 people in [Congress]," Mr. Treglia says in his talk. "The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot. That everywhere [Congress] looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."

The truth was far different. Mr. Treglia admits that campaign-finance supporters had to try to hoodwink Congress because "they had lost legitimacy inside Washington because they didn't have a constituency that would punish Congress if they didn't vote for reform.""

Clearly this is an admission that there was a conspiracy amongst these organization to do what ever it took to influence Congress on McCain-Feingold.
"So instead, according to Mr. Treglia, liberal reform groups created a Potemkin movement. A study last month by the Political Money Line, a nonpartisan Web site dealing with campaign funding issues, found that of the $140 million spent to directly promote liberal campaign reform in the last decade, a full $123 million came from just eight liberal foundations. Many are the same foundations that provide much of the money for such left-wing groups as People for the American Way and the Earth Action Network. The "movement" behind campaign-finance reform resembled many corporate campaigns pushing legislation. It consisted largely of "Astroturf" rather than true "grass-roots" support."
So it looks like a phony movement was created, funded by some of the liberal organizations trying to frauduently get McCain-Feingold passed. One of the largerst contributors to this effort was George Soros.

"Mr. Treglia isn't talking to reporters about his remarks at USC. But he has released a statement saying "it is incorrect to suggest that [Pew] would attempt to deceive or mislead about its funding efforts. I regret that my comments have led to any confusion." Rebecca Remel, Pew's president and CEO, says that "any assertion that we tried to hide our support of campaign finance reform grantees is false." No doubt Pew did comply with the technical requirements of the law, but it also certainly didn't follow the kind of transparency standards it demands of politicians or corporations.

The successful stealth campaign by the eight liberal foundations means we now have to live in the Brave New World of McCain-Feingold. Bradley Smith, a Federal Election Commission member, made news this month by warning that bloggers could face federal regulation because a federal judge had thrown out their legal exemption from campaign finance regulations. The Internet has been burning up with concern that bloggers could be hauled into court for, as Mr. Smith puts it, "any decision by an individual to put a link [to a political candidate] on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done." Mr. Smith warns that "it's very likely that the Internet is going to be regulated" by the FEC unless "Congress is willing to stand up and say, 'Keep your hands off of this, and we'll change the statute to make it clear.' "

McCain-Feingold did little in last year's elections to limit the influence of money in politics, but a great deal to benefit incumbents and harm true grass-roots politics. Its ban on using soft money to run issue ads in the 60 days before an election mean that such ads will run earlier, make campaigns longer and allow incumbents to avoid criticism of their voting records. David Mason, who serves with Mr. Smith on the FEC, says that the incredible complexity of the bill is likely to lead to "invidious enforcement, singling out disfavored groups or causes" and "subjecting regulated groups to harassment by political opponents." "

It looks like this fraud was successful enough to influence not only politicians, but the Supreme Court as well. Fund concludes with this:
"The next time Congress debates further "reform" of the rules for conducting elections, it would behoove all of us to learn who is really behind the effort, and what their true motives might be."
As Ryan Sager has said, "Show Me the Money". Unfortunately this is not some thing we can depend on the MSM to cover or investigate. As I have posted before, it is up to us to pressure our representatives into passing legislation protecting the free speech of bloggers and to demand an investigation into how these organizations were able to pull this fraud off. - Sailor

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