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The Mechanics
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Elections Sun Oct 17 2010

Corporate Cash Flooding IL, National Federal Races

Holding signs with slogans such as "RepubliCorp: we buy democracy, one race at a time," members of MoveOn from Chicago and the northern suburbs held a press conference on Friday, Oct. 15 at the Northbrook office of Congressman Mark Kirk, who is also a candidate for U.S. Senate, to draw attention to a report entitled Buying Democracy: The impact of corporate and right-wing front groups on elections in llinois. The report's findings reinforce what many Americans have become aware of in recent weeks, namely, that an unprecedented flood of shadowy cash is making its way into the 2010 election. The northern Illinois group held their presentation in coordination with other MoveOn efforts taking place in all 50 states.

The influx of corporate cash was predicted by critics of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which expanded on previous corporate-speech cases by equating corporations with people, and raw spending with speech, and ruling that corporations, including for-profit behemoths, had a right to spend unlimited amounts on elections, including federal elections where their participation had previously been barred. The MoveOn report, citing to dozens of news reports and studies, shows that entities aligned with right-wing causes and candidates planned to spend up to $400 million on this election, and that the overwhelming majority of front-group cash being spent on the federal elections is being used to attack Democratic candidates and benefit Republicans.

If you feel like there's more TV political assault than ever, you're not imagining it. Nationwide, TV spending has doubled compared to the 2006 mid-term elections. However, much of this is not coming from the candidates or parties, but from almost unknown third-party groups. In Illinois, the report states that two groups alone, including American Crossroads, had already spent nearly $1.3 million trying to defeat the Democratic Senate nominee, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, and thus elect Kirk. American Crossroads is headed by former Bush/GOP operative and strategist Karl Rove and is bankrolled largely by wealthy and corporate donors. In U.S. Senate races nationwide, conservative and right-wing groups are outspending liberal counterparts by a 9 to 1 ratio.

The spending is not only unprecedented in volume, and tilting hard to the right, but breaking records for how much is coming from undisclosed sources. Whereas in 2006 over 90% of all contributors were disclosed by the groups running the ads, that figure has fallen to 37% in the current election. Corporations and billionaires can underwrite the most vicious operatives and media smears by funneling funds through nonprofit groups or third-party entities, thus staging hit-and-run attacks that are not only enormously well-funded, but anonymous.

Following the press conference, the activists presented a copy of the report to staffers for Kirk, asking that the congressman support campaign finance reform, efforts to overturn Citizens United, and disavow the activities and support of groups such as American Crossroads. Larry Goldberg, head of the 9th Congressional District Council, said that the issues go beyond any one candidate or party: "We're very concerned about democracy itself."

MoveOn.org, which claims 5 million members nationwide, operates both a political arm and a 501(c)(4) organization, MoveOn.org Civic action, which primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on important national issues. The political arm has taken an increasingly aggressive stance against Kirk, naming Alexi Giannoulias one of its "Progressive Heroes" and creating short video spots tying Kirk to corporate money.

Update 10/19/2010: Lest anyone think otherwise, I have supported MoveOn from time to time with small contributions of money and time, as I have many other groups and causes, and have participated in the planning of local events (but not this one). I may do so again. I attended the above event not as a journalist but as a private citizen, and posted it because the subject matter is important. This entry is, however, my own, not MoveOn's.

Alex / October 18, 2010 1:30 AM

The REAL Alexi Giannoulias Record

The Mark Kirk Campaign has finally released its analysis of Broadway Bank and Alexi Giannoulias. It is shocking.


BROADWAY BANK LOANS TO CRIMINALS (1999-2006)

TOTAL BROADWAY BANK LOANS TO CRIMINALS: $119,499,045

TOTAL ALEXI GIANNOULIAS LOANS TO CRIMINALS: $80,037,045


Loans to Michael "Jaws" Giorango

Michael Giorango $1,100,000.00 8/27/1999

Michael Giorango $900,000.00 9/24/1999

Michael Giorango $300,000.00 12/5/2000

2601 Associates $5,000,000.00 5/31/2001

Michael Giorango $6,000,000.00 11/2/2001

Michael Giorango $600,000.00 5/28/2002

2601 Associates $400,000.00 9/19/2002

1201 S Western LLC $1,360,000.00 9/1/2004

1201 S Western LLC $4,400,000.00 12/21/2004

1201 S Western LLC $6,120,000.00 12/31/2004

Sun & Ocean Properties $5,800,000.00 3/31/2005

2601 Associates $1,000,000.00 4/20/2005

Highland Park Real Estate Dev. Corp $3,600,000.00 7/1/2005

1201 S Western LLC $3,400,000.00 9/26/2005

BROADWAY BANK TOTAL: $39,980,000

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS TOTAL: $26,080,000

Loans to Demitri Stavropoulos
(Convicted in 2004 for running a multistate sports bookmaking ring)

2601 Associates $400,000.00 9/19/2002

1201 S Western LLC $1,360,000.00 9/1/2004

1201 S Western LLC $4,400,000.00 12/21/2004

1201 S Western LLC $6,120,000.00 12/31/2004

Sun & Ocean Properties $5,800,000.00 3/31/2005

2601 Associates $1,000,000.00 4/20/2005

Highland Park Real Estate Dev. Corp $3,600,000.00 7/1/2005

1201 S Western LLC $3,400,000.00 9/26/2005

BROADWAY BANK TOTAL: $26,080,000

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS TOTAL: $26,080,000

Loans to Boris "Half Dollar" Stratievsky

Arbor Fullerton Corp $1,900,000 4/1/2002

2400 South LLC $6,120,000 1/15/2003

Arbor III Inc $6,000,000 9/30/2004

Arbor III Inc $6,117,045 1/28/2005

Arbor ACQ Inc $5,000,000 2/18/2005

BROADWAY BANK TOTAL: $25,137,045

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS TOTAL: $23,237,045

Loans to Ugur Yildiz
(A gun dealer shut down by the ATF)


Ugur Yildiz $710,000 7/24/2001

Ugur Yildiz $800,000 11/2/2001

Ugur Yildiz $92,000 1/24/2002

Ugur Yildiz $600,000 6/4/2004

Ugur Yildiz $900,000 7/3/2004

DCG Holdings $1,360,000 6/30/2009

BROADWAY BANK TOTAL: $3,102,000

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS TOTAL: $1,500,000

Loans to Tony Rezko

Name Amount Date

Chicago-Hudson LLC $10,940,000 1/25/2002

Tony Rezko $1,000,000 9/2002

Riverside District Development LLC $22,750,000 2/14/2006

BROADWAY BANK TOTAL: $34,690,000

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS TOTAL: $23,750,000

Loans to Nadhmi Auchi
(arms dealer convicted of felonies in France)

Riverside District Development LLC $22,750,000 2/14/2006

BROADWAY BANK TOTAL: $22,750,000

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS TOTAL: $22,750,000


Loans to Nick Giannis

Name Amount Date

Nick Giannis $200,000.00 8/15/2000

Nick Giannis $4,000,000.00 8/9/2001

Nick Giannis $200,000.00 10/25/2001

Nick Giannis $350,000.00 2/27/2002

Nick Giannis $1,220,000.00 11/26/2002

Boston Blackies Prop I LLC $4,250,000.00 2/24/2005

Boston Blackies Prop I LLC $1,400,000.00 1/22/2007

Boston Blackies Prop I LLC $500,000.00 4/9/2007

Boston Blackies Prop I LLC $2,100,000.00 6/8/2007

Boston Blackies Prop IV LLC $2,370,000.00 5/23/2008

BROADWAY BANK TOTAL: $16,590,000

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS TOTAL: $5,470,000

What a joke / October 18, 2010 12:15 PM

Seriously? How dumb do you think Gapersblock readers are?

Why don't you just copy and paste the MoveOn.org press release?

"Corporations and billionaires can underwrite the most vicious operatives and media smears by funneling funds through nonprofit groups or third-party entities, thus staging hit-and-run attacks that are not only enormously well-funded, but anonymous"

Pot, meet Kettle.

What a joke / October 18, 2010 12:43 PM

Even better is that the picture was obvously not at one of the rallies. The picture is inside of some conference room and not shown on any of the Moveon.org links. (and I can't seem to locate that woman at any of the rallies) This just begs the question - how is the author involved with MoveOn.org?

Secondly, is the author the same Jeff Smith who ran for IL state rep? If it is, it would seem that this Jeff Smith has plenty of MoveOn.org ties.

http://electjeffsmith.org/flyers/Environment.pdf

Seems that Jeff Smith likes to host MoveOn.org events and letter writing campaigns.

Would this be one of these anonymous hit pieces that the author is condemning?

Nice standards, Gapersblock.

Ramsin / October 18, 2010 3:13 PM

Tone it down, What A Joke. This is an op-ed piece.

What a Joke / October 18, 2010 3:46 PM

So then I'm right. Ha!

You allow someone who is obviously an operative of MoveOn.org to write, using his own definition, an anonymous hit piece, and you, as the editor, don't find it appropriate to disclose (or require the author to disclose) that he is even remotely involved with the organization.

There is nothing like sacrificing your credibilty, as well as the credibility of Gapersblock, for the cause, right?

FYI - this is why the country does not trust progressives. Its just propaganda at every turn.

Ramsin / October 18, 2010 6:12 PM

I'm not a "progressive", nor do I support or even particularly like MoveOn.org, so impugning me as doing something for "the cause" is asinine. Jeff has been a contributor to Mechanics since it launched in '08. He's contributing his opinion here. Jeff should have disclosed his membership of MoveOn if he's a member, but of course, you could have raised that point with me and I would have compelled it, rather than accusing me of being a part of a conspiracy to promote this campaign I haven't even heard of and sacrificing your credibility. If you come on here and make accusations like this again, you will be banned. We host Op-Eds from interested parties, including conservatives and libertarians, all the time. Why not debate the merits of his points rather than make tired accusations of liberal conspiracy?

FYI - This is the reason the country doesn't trust conservatives. Because they fabricate comical conspiracy theories with zero evidence rather than engage in debate on the merit of arguments. (See how stupid that sounds?)

Mumpsy / October 18, 2010 10:00 PM

What's the matter Ramsin?

He makes a solid point. If Jeff is involved with MoveOn, and his article is based on their research, then he should have come forth with that information. Its what you call "informing the reader", otherwise it is misleading.

You call "zero evidence" a flyer from his own campaign with the guy's information on it, including MoveOn.org with among his credentials? Really?

Then when confronted with this, you threaten to ban someone? That is more than pathetic. Thats just sad - and then you go and accuse What a Joke of not being able to respond to the merits of an argument?

So pathetic.

Jeff Smith / October 19, 2010 5:00 AM

The comparison to the groups running anonymous ads couldn't be more off. I identify MoveOn not as a neutral think-tank but as a group that is campaigning against Kirk, and I give links in the article to the group's home page so any reader can check them out and judge for themselves where MoveOn is coming from, and I link to the report itself so you can read the source material instead of just taking my characterization of it.

If you read carefully, you can also see that there is some of the same funnelling being done by liberal/Democratic groups, just nowhere near as much, and without the same corporate base.

As for me, my activist and political affiliations of the primarily Democratic persuasion have been set forth on this site since I first started writing here, and as What a Joke notes they are readily available on the Internet. Mechanics is styled a forum for diverse "viewpoints and beliefs." The perspective I have always brought to Mechanics has been that of an active participant in the political process and it has never been secret. So there is no "anonymity" involved here nor any attempt to "mislead."

I do try to base my opinions and arguments on facts. If my plodding style on this post wrongly suggested that I was a purely neutral scribe sitting in a tower releasing a paper only after two levels of scholarly peer review, I apologize. I will confess that I haven't reviewed the Ethics Handbook for Citizen-Political-Activist-Online-Writers; I suspect it is a work in progress (if not, Ramsin could you shoot me a PDF? :)

I suppose I could have said "we" instead of "activists" or referred to the MoveOn group as "my friends" or "some of my co-members." I'll consider doing that if a similar situation arises in the future. Why didn't I so insert myself into this story? Well, mainly, the post wasn't about me. I didn't write the report or organize the event. Also, the post is less about MoveOn than what is asserted in the report. I didn't express opinions about MoveOn, or about much of anything. And, hey, if I listed all the groups, causes, and candidates I am now or have ever been involved with, and all the things that inform my POV, on every post or comment, there wouldn't be much room for anything else. You know, in my last comment about bike lanes, I didn't mention that I ride a bike. And sometimes drive a car.

But it also seems to me that bottom line is that there's been no refutation or criticism of the report itself. Why are we talking about the post instead of about a $400 million purchase of our representative system of government?

FYI the pic was taken (not by me) in the lobby of the Northbrook office building I identify in the very first sentence.

Ramsin / October 19, 2010 9:23 AM

Mumpsy,

He has no point. I agree that if Jeff is somehow officially involved with MoveOn--as opposed to being merely a supporter of theres--that that should be disclosed. Had WAJ raised that point, there wouldn't be a problem, and in fact I asked Jeff to address that concern.

Recall that just being a supporter of a group like MoveOn no matter makes you an operative than being a supporter of Club for Growth or the Republican Party makes you a paid operative. Conflict of interest comes when one acts on behalf of an organization for pay, not for conscience. By your reasoning, no politician could ever write an Op-Ed. This was just WAJ casting aspersions on people through an ad hominem meant to degrade, rather than engaging with arguments.

What's pathetic is alleging some conspiracy to hide something because all that matters to me is a "cause" I'm not a part of. I won't have this site turn into a partisan message board.

Whether or not Jeff is a "member" or has some official capacity with MoveOn, this would not make a single fact he alleges true or untrue. It would only satisfy conspiracy lust and ad hominem.

What a Joke / October 19, 2010 10:52 AM

Jeff,

The MoveOn report that you base your entire article on is so chock full of innaccuracies that you should be embarassed to parrot it.

I mean, really embarassed. Basing an article off of a MoveOn report that uses ThinkProgress as its main source is like basing a report on marriage by interviewing two newlywed cousins named Soros.

However, you take it up apparently without pause, as in the quote, "entities aligned with right-wing causes and candidates planned to spend up to $400 million"
- The entire statement is unsupported by any quantitative measure.
- Up to $400 million? Why not up to $400 billion, because the actual amount would still fall under the upper limit. That is an intentionally exagerated and misleading statement.
- You misquote the MoveOn report by substituting "promised to spend" with "planned to spend". Much different connotation, but the intent is to promote "fear" and "concern", right?
- The attacks on the US Chamber of Commerce have been refuted by all major news papers, including the New York Times. Is ridiculous when you consider that even the White House stepped away from the statement when it was noted that most unions have international affiliations that also take foreign contributions (wouldn't want to check their books would they?)
- That line of attack is even more ridiculous when it was revealed that the US Chamber of Commerce donates to both Democratic and Republican candidates, at a roughly 60/40 R/D split

But really, the heart of why your article is such rubbish, is that you don't mention the amount of union money that is being spent on the 2010 elections. Let's count a small sample:
- NEA budget: $40 million
- SEIU budget: $44 million
- AFSCME budget: $50 million

Now lets compare that to the bogeymen in the MoveOn report (I'll even round up the figures to make them extra scary):
- US Chamber of Commerce: $7.5 million
- American Crossroads: $9.5 million
- Americans for Prosperity: $0.12 million
- 60 Plus Association: $6.5 million
- Club for Growth; $4 million
- American Action Network: $2 million

And what are these organizations supporting? Repeal of Obamacare (supported by a clear majority of Americans)? Climate change deniers (Heretics!)? Against the FINREG bill (you probably don't realise that the bill allows for the Fed to take over companies without clear due process as well as institutionalizes bailouts, again without a clear process)? My personal favorite, because they don't like Obama (gee whats not to like).

So when you say that this is a $400 million purchase of our representative system of government, I'm sure that you've been worried sick that the NEA alone has spent over $1 billion over the last decade to promote its special interests.

Yes, I'm sure you're so worried about "democracy itself".

"Corporations and billionaires can underwrite the most vicious operatives and media smears by funneling funds through nonprofit groups or third-party entities"

Here are a few examples of the organiza­tions, large and small, that benefited from NEA’s largesse, along with the amounts they received and excerpts from their mission statements. Alliance for Justice: $7,000. “Our Student Action Campaign cultivates the next generation of progres­sive activists and strengthens public interest grass­roots advocacy.”

America Votes: $150,000. “America Votes is the centerpiece of a permanent progressive campaign infrastructure nationally and in the states, benefiting hundreds of progressive organizations in both elec­tion and non-election years.”

Americans United for Change: $250,000. “Ameri­cans United for Change has challenged the far right conservative voices and ideas that for too long have been mistaken for mainstream American values.”

Campaign for America’s Future: $25,000. “At the Campaign for America’s Future, our daily work is to bring about the progressive transformation.”

Center for American Progress: $110,000 (another $10,000 from AFT). “CAP is designed to provide long-term leadership and support to the progressive movement.”

Center for Community Change: $10,000. “We believe that vibrant community-based organizations, led by the people most affected by social and eco­nomic injustice, are key to putting an end to the failed ‘on your own’ mentality of the right and building a new politics based on community values.”

Democratic GAIN: $10,000. “Democratic GAIN exists to support the professional needs of individuals and organizations that work in Democratic and Pro­gressive Politics.”

Demos: $5,000 (another $10,000 from AFT). “We publish books, reports, and briefing papers that illuminate critical problems and advance inno­vative solutions; work at both the national and state level with advocates and policymakers to promote reforms; help to build the capacity and skills of key progressive constituencies; project our values into the media by promoting Demos Fellows and staff in print, broadcast, and Internet venues; and host public events that showcase new ideas and leading progressive voices.”

Media Matters: $100,000. “Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedi­cated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

Midwest Academy: $5,000. “Courses and consult­ing services are designed for progressive organiza­tions and coalitions that utilize civic engagement activities to build citizen power at all levels of our democracy.”

U.S. Action: $203,000. “USAction builds power by uniting people locally and nationally, on-the-ground and online, to win a more just and pro­gressive America. We create the nation’s leading progressive coalitions, making democracy work by organizing issue and election campaigns to improve people’s lives.”

Mumpsy / October 19, 2010 11:09 AM

Ramsin

You are wrong. A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other - wikipedia

Monetary payment is irrelevant.

Mumpsy / October 19, 2010 11:13 AM

Ramsin

You are wrong. A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other - wikipedia

Monetary payment is irrelevant.

Ramsin / October 19, 2010 12:04 PM

Mumpsy

I'm unbelievably right, actually.

I'm glad you can copy and paste from wikipedia. However, in this context--an editorial piece for a political website--your definition is facially not applicable. How can somebody writing a political op-ed based on their political belief have a "corrupt motivation" for repeating their own political belief? Do you think Jeff doesn't actually believe what he's saying, that he's acting as an undercover operative?

Also, do you see why I threatened banning? See what this kind of ad hominem leads to? It's the old Manchurian Candidate strategy--"Nobody's saying, 'Are there any communists int he state department, they're asking how many communists are in the state department'".

Again, if we did not permit people who belonged to organizations or supported organization to express their political opinions in an op-ed, how could you have any political speech? When Bill Kristol, who belongs to any number of conservative think tanks and organizations, writes an editorial, should he disclose all those memberships? He obviously has a point of view and is expressing it.

Debate his arguments, don't cast aspersions on his and my integrity. It's as simple as that.

You'll see above that WAJ actually decided to confront the facts Jeff presented. I love to see that. The burden is on Jeff to reply. That is what political debate is about. I'm glad WAJ decided to challenge Jeff on the merits of his evidence. If we had started there, we could have saved a lot of wasted time and space.

Mumpsy / October 19, 2010 1:22 PM

Ramsin

First off, you should look after your own ad hominem attacks.

You threaten banning as a defense to your position of credibility, which is appropriately in question.

Bottom line is that you are the editor and you are responsible for the content. If you wish to allow obfuscation, then that is your decision. It will simply reflect the quality of your work.

Per your Bill Kristol example, a quick search re in eh op ed, he is stated as a member of a number of conservative organization. In fact it seems that most editors chose to, or required Kristol to, list the most relevant qualifier. i.e. Director of foreign policy institute for a foreign policy focused piece.

Perhaps you confuse supporter with operator. A supporter who is someone who supports, where an operator is someone who operates. By Mr Smith's own admission and advertisement, he operated MoveOn events and letter campaigns, so a credible editor should have required the author to disclose this information. You did not, and your responses have been to simply denigrate this fact and refuse any culpability on non-disclosure. It reminds me of the argument of an adolescent child.

I'd hope that a review of gapersblock standards is in order.

Ramsin / October 19, 2010 1:51 PM

I won't suffer ad hominems on my writers, myself, or commenters, including unfounded allegations of conspiracy. It's as simple as that. This is a place for debate, not tired partisan attacks on the each other's mental states.

Your "operator" and "supporter" standards pass no reasonability test. A supporter of the GOP may host a coffee to raise money for a candidate with no ulterior motive besides expressing their political support. To draw a distinction between supporter and operator is essentially to say you cannot have political speech without being an operator.

In the Citizens United decision, the SC rightfully pointed out that it is absurd to say that an entity can have political speech rights but not act to express them. Organizing or attending a meeting without being paid to do so is an expression of political speech. It is not being an "operator" a term of art you introduced solely to support your unsupportable contention.

This Op-Ed was an expression of political opinions. Jeff agrees with MoveOn on this issue. He is not a paid operative of theirs, he is not writing this at the behest of anybody or anyone, only his own conscience. Nothing was obfuscated. WAJ fabricated a duty to disclose solely to discredit the man, rather than the argument. There is no duty to disclose being one of several million people who supports a political organization when the opinion of the article manifestly demonstrates that. The duty is created when a special relationship, monetary or otherwise, exists. Being one of millions of supporters no more qualifies as a special relationship as being one of thousands of small-dollar givers to a political campaign would require disclosure when writing an Op-Ed in support of that candidate.

Your drawing of arbitrary distinctions to buttress your ever-faltering position is only extending a distraction from the merits of his arguments.

No review is in order. Your argument fails on its merits. I brought WAJ's concerns to Jeff's attention and asked him to address whether a disclosure-worthy relationship existed. That is the extent of our duty.

Jeff Smith / October 19, 2010 1:57 PM

I didn't "base" the "article" on the MoveOn report. I wrote the "entry," as they are called here, about the release of the report. I too am glad that the focus has shifted to the character of its contents.

The "up to $400 million" number was not plucked from thin air but was based on the statements of the groups in question about their spending plans. If you look at the ThinkProgress report you'll see for example that the figure about the $3 million that the Susan B. Anthony List plans to spend comes from a story on Christian News Wire and that the figures about the Tea Party Express's planned $35 million come from official filed election reports.

The point about union participation has some validity. The same law that barred direct corporate spending on federal elections also barred direct union spending on federal elections, and most lawyers and scholars would say that Citizens United also applies to unions. But I haven't seen any evidence yet that the unions have changed their behavior in response. The change in behavior and the sprouting of all these new groups is what is novel, and potentially a game-changer.

Realize my piece was only talking about federal elections here; there was no ban on corporate or union spending in, say, Illinois politics.

I did not discuss union spending because it's a different story. We could have an interesting discussion about whether spending private wealth or money which comes out of the pockets of shareholders and consumers is different than money that workers contribute on their own. And whether public workers are in a different boat than those in the private sector. But that's too big a discussion for a Comment, I think. Also, I believe that there is at least one media outlet in Chicago, considerably larger than Gapers Block, that does a pretty good job of pointing out union involvement in politics :)

I am not a MoveOn officer, employee, staffer, or consultant. I will check back with them and see if I am on their org chart as an "operative," and if so, does the title come with a secret spy decoder ring, because I've always wanted one of those. :) In the meantime, I will add some info to the original post.

Ramsin / October 19, 2010 2:01 PM

The irony of all this of course is that I argued that Citizens United v. FEC, which forms the basis of Smith's and MoveOn's criticism, was rightly decided. for which I took a lot of heat from liberals. All part of my conspiracy apparently.

larry goldberg / October 19, 2010 10:53 PM

I want to thank gapersblock.com for their work in general, and for running jeff smith's writings.

I am a coordinator for moveon, a volunteer postition i have held for over two years. I and another council member organized the rally. moveon as a national organization wrote the report, which focused entirely on making transparent the funding that is happening in this election, in the wake of the citizens united supreme court decision, and the blocking of the DISCLOSE bill by senate republicans. Jeff came as a volunteer and wrote the piece on his own, not at our request, altho I'm happy he did so. The issue is not the rally, the issue is the unsurpassed undisclosed funding that is being spilled into the mid-term elections. Representative Kirk is one of the major beneficiaries of such money, and that is why his office was selected as a press conference site.

I find some of the comments distressing, as an ad hominem attack on the messenger, not the message. I personally feel that the tidal wave of anonymous campaign money is a profound and direct threat to our basic democracy in this country. that is the issue that the rally highlighted, and the issue which we should be discussing.

What a joke / October 20, 2010 9:02 AM

Larry,

Thank you for establishing the fact, and confirming the allegation, that you do not need to be paid by MoveOn.org to act in an official capacity for the organization. By your own admission, a volunteer can organize an official MoveOn.org event.

Jeff's update and his own advertisements also confirm that he has previously acted in official capacity.

Even using Ramsin's narrow definition of conflict of interest, you have established that a "special relationship" does exist and therefore a conflict of interest between Jeff smith and MoveOn.org may exist and should have been disclosed.

My comments are about the handling of this disclosure. I find it humorous that "ad hominem" accusation has been used as a blanket pardon for any responsibility of propriety.

Ramsin / October 20, 2010 10:51 AM

WAJ, again, it is absurd to allege there's a conflict of interest here. Jeff's opinion is expressed baldly in the piece. There's nothing being obscured because he has no interest ancillary to expressing his political speech. Again, by your definition anybody who volunteers with any political organization, by expressing a political opinion shared by that organization is engaging in something dishonest requiring a special disclosure.

He has no ancillary interest here--he isn't paid to post on websites, he isn't paid by the organization. He supports it and writes about his support of it. In fact, as a member, he gives them money, not the other way around. What potential dissembling could be discovered? That someone who supports moveon wrote a piece in support of moveon's position?

There's no reason to be suspect of an ulterior motive--which is the purpose of disclosure and the meaning of "conflict" of interest. He isn't representing himself as something he's not; he's writing and opinion (or analysis) piece, not a news piece, that expresses his opinion.

It is an ad hominem to not address his argument or facts, as you started by doing, but just saying, "You are a secret operative, you can't be trusted." Then walking it back to claim absurdly that "belonging" to a volunteer organization with millions of national members somehow makes a person unreliable, creating a special relationship or ancillary interest.

And here we are, yet again, not discussing the facts but your canard. Which, of course, is exactly what you want, because that is what our political discourse from both sides have turned into--attacks on crediblity, on patriotism, what is lurking in one another's souls--our secret intentions.

Which is why I won't have it. By even the most stringent definition there is no conflict of interest here. Cease and desist or leave. Go read the Free Republic.

what a joke / October 20, 2010 1:20 PM

My thesis was that Jeff Smith is not independent from MoveOn.org, and that thesis has turned out to be true. Verified by his own admission and supported by statements from Larry Goldberg.

Moreover, it is now established, voluntarily by two members of the organization, that Moveon.org grants executive status and authority to unpaid volunteers and officially sponsors events held and organized by said volunteers. This is specific and particular behavior to that organization, which blurs the lines between activist, supporter, and member. That would most certainly define a special relationship between the organization and its volunteers.

As an editor of Gapersblock, you regard this relationship as inconsequential and would have your readers simply take your judgement that no conflict of interest could take place. And your underlying reasoning is based on a lack of direct monetary compensation, where your assumption is that all motivation is based on monetary compensation.

Your readers are not naive, but perhaps you wish they are, hence your continued threat to "ban" readers and commentators.

BTW - Per "his argument" or "his facts", Jeff Smith, in his own words, says that his piece was "about the release of the report", so by stating that the report's contents are "Jeff's facts" or "Jeff's argument", you again link Jeff Smith to MoveOn, rather then treating him as an independent writer.

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