Saturday, March 12, 2011

Revelations of Democratic financial "support" for Wisconsin Statehouse "protests" raises troubling legal and ethical questions

Revelations that "Organizing for America," the shadowy semi-Democratic National Committee organ and "community organizing" group utilized by Barack Obama to propel him to the Presidency, may have provided significant financial and other support to those "protesting" legislation reigning in the power of public unions in Wisconsin raises serious ethical and legal questions, (as if more questions about campaign finance corruption in the current Administration were needed, see here).

Statements showing that the DNC/OFO may have given up to $537,000 dollars to "create" the protests, (including ferrying tens of thousands of out-of-state "protesters" to the Wisconsin capital in Madison) as well as bankroll the hotel stays of rogue Democratic lawmakers who fled the State rather than allow a democratic up or down vote on the legislative austerity proposals, not only raises questions over the grass-roots authenticity of such "protests" but also may run afoul of State lobbying and campaign finance laws, (some of the strictest in the nation passed by, you guessed it, Democrats).

Of course, while the determination of whether in fact such support provided by Democratic sources, (including Governor Howard Dean's organization creation of a 100,000 "slush fund" to help fund the on-the-lam Wisconsin Democrats' hiatus in Illinois, see here), does indeed constitute illegal campaign "contributions" under Wisconsin law will have to made by others more qualified, the irony of the normally pro-campaign-finance regulation Democrats being hoisted on their own pitard is indeed rich.

 Indeed, while many details of this scandal are still sketchy, it appears that the Democratic National Committee funneled funds through OFA to provide broad financal and other support to underwrite the "protests," including food, "walking around" money, transportation, and, as above mentioned, possibly even the costs of the Democratic lawmakers' hiatus in Illinois itself, including for hotel costs and food, in their efforts to kill by attrition the bills pending in the Wisconsin Statehouse that promised to curb union abuses and limit the percentage of taxpayer dollars used to fund the pensions and benefits of members of one of the largest public unions in Wisconsin, (the state National Education Association chapter).

Coming on the heels of unusual meddling in such local Wisconsin affairs represented by public comments of the President strongly condemning Republican Governor Scott Walker's efforts at financial reform in the state, the revelations threatened to further undermine the President's campaign promise to be "the most ethical and transparent Administration" in American history, and openly connected the dots for those who have long asserted the Obama Administration maintains an unhealthy dependence on (and conflict of interest with?) its ongoing relationships with both Obama's former "community organizing" ties as well as labor unions.

They also bely an extremely blatant hypocrisy inherent in the Administration's very public criticism of the Supreme Court's decision in the 2010 free speech case "Citizen's United" in which the High Court invalidated laws preventing trade unions, non-profits, and corporations alike from freely spending on politically-oriented speech in elections.

Indeed, who can forget the President singling out the Supreme Court for criticism for its Citizen's United decision in his 2010 State of the Union address? (In response to which, in a rare moment of public dissent between a sitting President and member of the Supreme Court, you may recall Justice Samuel Alito mouthing "not true" when the President publicly charged the Court's decision would result in an illegal influx of "foreign" pro-business capital that would corrupt the American political process).

Of course, given the fact that unions were in large part responsible for Barack Obama's financial support in his historic 2008 campaign, have given a total of over 667 million dollars since 1990 to support Democratic candidates by a ratio of more than 8 to one, and given more than fifty million dollars to Democrats in the 2010 federal election cycle alone, we think the President "protesteth a bit much."  (Indeed, by this measure, the effect of the Citizens United decision has been far from "pro-business" on American elections.  Of course, by the same token, we can understand why the President would want to protect his union friends as he prepares for his 2012 re-election campaign).

But notwithstanding the much-more substantial allegations of contributions and/or influence by the Chinese government (and/or arms dealers) on President's Clinton's 1996 campaign, what of President Obama's sensational claims re: interference of "foreign interests" in American elections? (a claim that was, btw, repeated incessantly leading up to the 2010 mid-term elections notwithstanding the extreme hypocrisy of Obama in light of his own flouting of campaign finance law, click here). 
Well, put succinctly, and in spite of the extensive mainstream media coverage such sensationalist claims received, not one shred of evidence has been produced to substantiate these claims, (then or since!)  This, to us, seems amazingly unlikely in light of the magnitude of such "interference" as had been implied, (claims which seemed to be vaguely based on an alleged and amorphous "sharing" of Chamber of Commerce dues from foreign chapters overseas, similar to what has been done by unions for years by which dues are ostensibly separated from other funds which can lawfully be used for, among other things, political activism).

But don't expect such facts to be considered in the discussion here, (not to mention be admitted by the unions and their political supporters).   This is, after all, the game of politics.  jp

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