Legal Darkness

For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

—Jesus

f you think national campaign finance rules are screwed up, Missouri’s are worse.

Today I received in the mail campaign literature from an outfit known as Missourians for Conservative Values PAC.  Here is a shot of one page:

I wondered who this group was and, more important, where it got its dough to finance such a slick and nasty ad. I found it also had a video out:

Now that’s pretty rough stuff and you all know I don’t care at all about Peter Kinder’s political career, except to see it end as soon as possible at the hands of a Democrat. But this ad was not, obviously, financed by any Democratic group. The point here is that whoever is behind the ad ought to have a face.

So, who is behind the financing? Beats me and good luck finding out in this state. From the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

Editorial: Trail of dirty money continues to pull Missouri into the mud

This is what democracy looks like in Missouri:

Last Friday, Denise Young of High Ridge formed a nonprofit corporation, Better Government for Missouri.

Later that day, Better Government for Missouri gave $100,000 to Missourians for Conservative Values, a St. Joseph-based political action committee.

On Tuesday, Missourians for Conservative Values posted a political video on YouTube recounting Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s dalliances with a former East St. Louis stripper. It’s the sort of negative and nasty ad that builds on the arguments made by state Sen. Brad Lager of Savannah, Mr. Kinder’s opponent in the Republican primary for lieutenant governor.

Mr. Lager’s campaign, of course, said it had nothing — nothing — to do with the ad. Politics ain’t beanbag, as they say, but politicians generally want plausible deniability when their friends and allies throw mud on their behalf.

Here’s the rub: There is no way of knowing who spent the $100,000 to slime Mr. Kinder.

The “sleaziness,” as the Post points out,

is not a result of the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United ruling. It’s purely a Missouri problem.

In 2005, when Missouri politicians, Republicans and Democrats, started pushing to get rid of campaign donation limits in the Show-Me State, their main argument was that it would bring transparency to campaign finance in the state.

If donors could give whatever they wanted, the logic went, there would be no incentive to launder money through multiple committees, as long had been the practice. The flaw in the argument was clear: There would be no transparency if lawmakers didn’t also pass measures to ban committee-to-committee transfers, like the example above.

Now we have limited transparency and unlimited money. It’s a dangerous combination.

The editorial notes that failure at the federal level to enforce rules that were designed to limit groups like Better Government for America from “active involvement in electoral politics” is also partly to blame for the problem. Such negligence allows “dirty tricksters” to pretty much “operate in the dark” here in Missouri.

It turns out that in addition to the initial $100,000 which went to the sliming of Peter Kinder, there was more, according to Randy Turner:

Five days after Better Government for Missouri was formed, it gave another $200,000 to Missourians for Conservative Values for a direct mailing against Kinder, according to the eight-days-before-election report filed with the Ethics Commission.

Prior to the formation of Better Government for Missouri, the St. Joseph PAC only had $5,140.01 in the bank. After spending the $300,000 and an additional $115 for expenses, the PAC is left with $5,025.01, according to the report.

Where’s the money coming from? Who is behind it? Apparently, here in Missouri the public’s right to know is strictly limited to those who need to know, which doesn’t include you and me.

Not only is all this an affront to Missouri democracy, such secrecy, which is also going on at the national level, undermines our cultural confidence  in the realization of Lincoln’s majestic prayer for our form of government:

that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

What a shame that should American democracy perish, it just might be at the hands of wealthy Americans who can do their nastiness in a very creepy—and legal— darkness.

11 Comments

  1. Treeske

     /  August 2, 2012

    Doesn’t it lay the groundworks for bringing Blunt’s Moral shortcomings and Hypocracy back to the foreground?

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    • Blunt won the Republican primary in 2010 with 71% of the vote. He was never attacked by his fellow Republican in the way Kinder has been, despite his cavorting with Jack Abramoff and his sleazy tobacco politics and his un-Christian divorce.

      And voters didn’t much care about those things in the general election since he trounced Carnahan 54-41. Blunt had the blessing of the conservative establishment, who honor their family values commitments in very strange ways. And unless he votes for compromises with Democrats in the next four years, Blunt will be reelected probably without a serious primary opponent.

      Like

  2. Treeske

     /  August 2, 2012

    Duane,- Strange values and ethics, I agree!

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  3. ansonburlingame

     /  August 2, 2012

    Republicans are thrashing other Republicans in a primary campaign. Should that be a surprise?

    In a very public and demeaning way, Kinder got caught with his “pants down” in a public media scandel about a year ago. There were no “sneaky contributions” in that revelation. Instead it was main stream media news.

    Given that situation the real “story” is why in the world Kinder would try to run for office, any office, again? I call that GALL. And if he gets reelected I will consider it STUPIDITY on the part of MO voters in a general election.

    Some folks gave up on Kinder at that ;point, over a year ago and he is trying to get out from under that scandel. I know of ONE very rich political contributor in Joplin that demanded “his money back” that he had given before to Kinder. If he got it back, might one wonder where at least some of the sources of money for this particular “flyer”? Who knows, and in my case who cares.

    I don’t need a politcal ad to tell me Kinder “got caught”. Do you?

    Was the flyer 100% accurate, including “pantless parties”? I have no idea and again don’t care. But then I don’t know that I have ever seen any politcal ad that measures up to the 100% or even close to it level. Which is why I ignore political ads as fast as I can reach my mute button or tear up a mail flyer unopened, from either side.

    As well I see many other things putting huge stress on democracy today and Kinder’s position of his pants is not on that list or the lack of “panties” on the part of his “companions” as well.

    Anson

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  4. ansonburlingame

     /  August 2, 2012

    Immediately after posting the above my phone rang, again, for the umpteenth time over the last several days. “Out of area” was the ID and yep, it was another “call” from either candidates or pollsters.

    I wonder how many of you hate those kinds of calls as I hate them. Usually I hang up or let it go to the “machine”. But if I am expecting a call I say “hello”. Then, if I have the time, I do all that I can to scew, (or screw) the results. I answer any questions exactly the opposite of how I feel or intend to vote!!

    Anson

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  5. SCOTUS anointed secrecy as the meme de la creme of American politics, and now its stain is suffusing the body politic. Soon there won’t even be a body politic worth burying.

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    • The bottom line, Jim, is that this conservative Supreme Court has in effect said that rich folks have a right to use as much money as they want to “speak” in our electoral process, and the Court will not tolerate any meaningful dilution of their money-speech. The practical effect of that stance is that the more money one has the more speech he or she can buy. Thus, money = speech, even though the Court hasn’t technically said that.

      What the SC did in the recent Arizona case (Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett) is begin the process of completely eliminating any effort designed to limit rich people’s ability to buy elections. Eventually the conservative Court will overturn Buckley v. Valeo (which at least offers a rationale for regulating campaign spending: its potential or real corruptive effects), and all will be lost without a Constitutional Amendment.

      And if all this stuff doesn’t scare the bejesus out of the demos, it is because they are either incorrigibly jaded or ignorant. And guess what? Judging by the lack of interest in this subject on the part of the average Joe, either explanation will suffice.

      Duane

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      • Right, Duane, money does equal speech, but I would add that money changes the meaning of “speech”, insofar as it is determinate of political persuasion. Given the shallow attention apparently paid to the process by the typical voter, money buys:

        1. Professionally facile design of a message.
        2. The ubiquity of a message.

        These appear to be effective. For example, I am now looking at the political cartoon in today’s Globe. It shows Obama beginning to “clarify” his “you didn’t build it” statement, and in the next panel shows him building a road to “ruin”. That whole issue was built on a statement brazenly taken out of context, but I fear it is very effective in affecting people who on the fence. Thus, money is leverage beyond mere speech. Slick repetition works.

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        • Jim,

          I saw that cartoon and my first thought was why would Carol put such a cartoon in the paper? It is beyond the normal political attack, in my opinion, because a) it is based on a lie and b) it plays into the meme that Obama is purposely trying to ruin the country. Shame on the Globe for promoting that stuff because it does have control of what goes on the editorial page. But the obvious reason such cartoons appear in the Globe (there have been others I found similarly distasteful) is because it keeps the natives happy; that is, it keeps them subscribing. I don’t expect our paper to reflect my views all the time (God forbid), but I do expect it to be more careful in promoting such obvious falsehoods coming from the other side. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of the president without having to resort to such things.

          Duane

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  6. ansonburlingame

     /  August 4, 2012

    Holy Cow,

    SCOTUS ruled on Free Speech and as far as I know had NOThING to say about the anonimity or lack thereof on such speech. Free speech was upheld and no legal considered opinion was rendered, again as far as I know, on the consequences of “hiding” that free speech.

    Given all of that I would suspect that Congress, acting democratically can force “speakers” to in fact stand publicly when the “speech” is given.

    Suppose I decided to “give a speech” , a privately taped speech made in a broom closet. It was a virulent speech as well with all the hate, venom and polemics possible against a particular candidate, but short of libel or a call to “arms” thus inciting a riot.

    Can I constitutionally make such a speech? SCOTUS seems to say yes you can.

    But then I PAY a raido station to broadcast that anonymous speech with no attribution whatsoever to who wrote it, made it or paid to have it broadcast. Is that unconstitutional for me or a broadcaster to protect the anonymity of the speaker? I don’t see such protections anywhere in the constitution, one way or the other.

    The Congress can and probably should enact such a law demanding that Free Speech also be public speech in a political campaign. I would certainly vote in favor of such an approach.

    In other words I support fully, Free Speech, but I also firmly believe any speaker should stand tall to defend and accept criticism for whatever is said.

    The “right” to speak freely in other words, to me, carries the responsiblity to take the flak or praise for such speech. We do that all the time in these blogs do we not. Well so should the “fat cats” that pay for such speeches!!

    Anson

    Like

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