Monday, October 4, 2010

U.S. Congressman Challenges Shadowy Opponents

This story concerns Peter DeFazio, a Democrat who represents Oregon's Fourth Congressional District, which encompasses its second largest city (Eugene) and part of its coastal population. DeFazio has not had any serious opposition for re-election (in 2008 he run election for the 10th time with over eighty percent of the vote.) 

His main opponent is Art Robinson, a little-known science professor whose major issue seems to be refuting the idea of human-caused global warming. Oh, and he also came out for abolishing the public school system, the entire system I guess, calling it "socialist education."  Given that Mr. DeFazio's district is  home to one of  the best public education institutions in the Northwest, The University of Oregon, you would think Professor Robinson was waging a quixotic campaign. And it would be a hopeless task for a man so out of touch with this constituency.  But where his ideas might fail him, unlimited money from anonymous sources  are given the challenger a boost. 

Why anonymous sources and why unlimited money you ask?  

After the Democratic Landslide elections of 2008, the Supreme Court of the United States of which a majority of Justices and its Chief Justice were  appointed by conservative Presidents, decided to overturn a 100-year old law banning direct corporate spending in political campaigns.  The decision came from a case called Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission.

From a news article from National Public Radio: 

"As a result of the Supreme Court's ruling, groups such as Americans for New Leadership and Concerned Taxpayers for America have come out to take advantage of the new rules. Some of these groups are known as 501c4's, which is a tax designation; others are simply referred to as "super-PACS."

"Under the new rules, these groups are not required to say who they are or how they're funded, and it's very difficult to find out any information about them."

So now politicians all over the country whose views are not simpatico with investment bankers, private medical insurance companies, hospitals, and wealthy people who before would have had to declare themselves against  a candidate to donate money  to see his or her defeat are now protected from any scrutiny whatsoever by law. 

Which means the money can come from anywhere--even a foreign country--and no one has a right to know where it came from or who it is behind the funding. 

Which brings us to Concerned Taxpayers for America, the shadow group that just threw  80,000 dollars into a television ad buy against De Fazio.  Much more money is likely to be in the pipeline from "Concerned Taxpayers for America", whomever they are,as the November 2nd Election draws nearer.  

"Is this a corporation? Is it one very wealthy, right-wing individual? Is it a foreign interest? Is it a drug gang?" DeFazio said. "We don't know."The names behind those voices apparently will remain a mystery - at least until the organization has to make a quarterly filing to the FEC in October. (from "The Washington Post").

Determined to find out where this money was coming from, DeFazio, accompanied by reporters from the Washington Post, went to an address in Washington that was supposed to be the headquarters of Concerned Citizens. He personally knocked on the door of the Washington townhouse that had been left on a filing paper for the political action group. 

This is a transcript and part of an article from The Huffington Post, from September 26, 2010:

The Huffington Post, along with a couple of journalists from The Washington Post, accompanied DeFazio on the short walk from the Rayburn House Office Building over to Concerned Taxpayers' headquarters, listed as 10 E St, SE, which turned out to be a small grey townhouse. DeFazio had to ring the doorbell, knock, and yell through the mail slot before someone came to the door. The man identified himself as Mike Omegna and he told the congressman that he had never heard of Miller or Concerned Taxpayers, nor was his voice on the organization's voicemail:

DEFAZIO: You don't know Jason Miller?

OMEGNA: No. No, I don't, sir. ... I rent this place. [...]

DEFAZIO: Did you ever hear of Concerned Taxpayers of America? 

OMEGNA: Nope. [...]

WASHINGTON POST: You're on the [voice] message, aren't you?

OMEGNA: Am I? I shouldn't be.

DEFAZIO: So you know nothing about Concerned Taxpayers for America, and you're not forwarding calls.


DEFAZIO: You're just a renter?


"These people must be really scared of revealing who they really are, or they wouldn't be having a blind drop and someone who's probably misrepresenting themselves answering the door," DeFazio told reporters after the incident. 

Art Robinson for his part says he has no idea where the campaign money is coming from, but they have already spent more money for him than he could raise for himself. One would hope the Federal Election Commission rules will shed some light for the voters of Oregon on just who these donors are.  

But why would anyone or any entity want to spend millions to  take down a relatively obscure Congressman like DeFazio. Well, this speech The maverick Oregon Democrat delivered  in September of 2008, on the eve of the Bush Administration's  700 billion dollar bailout of major investment banks, might have something to do with that. DeFazio bucked both parties leaders in the Congress on this. one.     

It is enshrined in law that people are entitled to a secret ballot; the question is today:  are they entitled to spend millions secretly working against a candidate with modern media ads?  How are the voters supposed to tell where the shadowy interests of these few people (or one person) or company or foreign entity lies---until too late? 

De Fazio is probably--my finger crossed-- going to hold unto his seat.  Oregonians have a tradition of electing Representatives and senators who are always a little out-of-step with their colleagues from BOTH major political parties. 

But with the Republicans running an estimated 7-1 advantage in money raised by these new "Super PACs", what Congressperson in a tough re-election  fight elsewhere is likely to want to investigate a company doing business with the government, let's say, if said company can attack that Representative with the impunity of a cloak of secrecy for much if not all of the campaign season?  



  1. Hmm. I can see both sides of this, the case for "mind your own business" and the case for "openness". Oddly enough on a microcosmic scale we have a similar thing going on in the municpal elections in our tiny little township in the boonies. The challenger is accusing the incumbent of hiding sources of funding, because there are enough of his signs up to keep half the township warm in firewood this winter. It sounds petty, but each sign costs about $5 to make and they are everywhere.

    I think in the end, we must have regulation of funding, and other regulation too, because otherwise all we ever get is oligarchy. Or in the case of your government, oiligarchy.

  2. I totally agree Melanie. Our Congress needs to step up here and create legislation restoring some accountability--at least for major donors. Otherwise it is Free Speech to the highest bidder.

  3. Which of course, is not free at all.

    Watching American elections from "outside" we are STAGGERED at the money spent, and the inordinate amount of time taken too.

  4. There's a lot to be said for the British and Canadian systems on short election seasons, Melanie.

  5. Oh yes:) By the time you guys got to the vote we were all SO bored with hearing about it. Cries of "HOW MUCH FREAKIN' LONGER?". But I know, you can't rush propaganda:)

  6. I think there is a need for some new amendments within government Doug. I think that is fairly obvious to see at this time now and after watching it for the last year go on and on and on.

  7. Doug, this is shameful - and it's going on all over the country. DeFazio has done yeoman's work in Congress, and I'm hoping he can fight off the shadow-money and the rest of the nonsense to get re-elected.

    The people who are pushing this 'oceans of money' agenda have found a means through the Supreme Court to purchase the government outright.

    When that happens, this place will be a lot different than it was.

    But it won't be America.

  8. "The people who are pushing this 'oceans of money' agenda have found a means through the Supreme Court to purchase the government outright."

    The Supreme has been & is a thorn in my side. They are the root of this problem. (They were also the root of GWB's first term election & that led us to hell in a hand basket.)

    " the Supreme Court of the United States of which a majority of Justices and its Chief Justice were appointed by conservative Presidents, decided to overturn a 100-year old law banning direct corporate spending in political campaigns. The decision came from a case called Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission."

    That's just a bite of the lemon, of course.

    For whatever purpose life terms for Supreme Court Justices were originally determined, they no longer apply, in my opinion. They 'set asunder' the often alleged balance of power in our government. Appointed by whichever party, they are allowed to sit until they die. I don't consider this a democracy. Of course, I prefer Democratic appointments, as they're inclined to care about the common people. The common people should elect the justices, & have the option to boot them out.

    Melanie, "we are STAGGERED at the money spent" so am I. It's bizarre in this shattered economy. When someone running for office says he will spend his own millions for his campaign, I think of all the people being kicked into the street by foreclosures, literally dying for lack of medical care, children starving. I'd like to grab that guy & hold him for ransom.

    De Fazio was articulate & logical in the video. I hope that people won't be misled by Art Robinson's promotional spending, but instead, realize that anyone with so much money (his own or others) is NOT a man who will represent we commoners who are rapidly increasing..

  9. I'm afraid you're right, Will. I don't know what can be done in the short-term, but it seems we are headed back to the era of the Robber Barons if we can't at least bring sunshine to who-is-behind-the-money in these political campaigns.

  10. This long session of a campaign season was likely something left over from the days of horses and buggies, Melanie. It's stayed in place because of campaign strategists and corporate money that pours into commercial television come election time.

    One women in California is spending $150million to be elected governor, and that's just one example.

  11. Me.,too, Jack. I'd like to see some Constitutional Amendments, but I just can't pretend to be enthusiastic that anything like that would even get out of Congress. If it was a determined by plebiscites among the voters at large, we'd have a better shot.

  12. Lucija, I just don't know why more people aren't turned off by this type of big moneybags approach to seeking office.

    Franklin Roosevelt tried to bring a new Justice to the Supreme Court for everyone justice who reached 70 years old. That failed. Again, this judge-til-you-drop approach could be changed by Constitutional means. I'd love to see a plan that would get out of Congress though.

    DeFazio is a man of logic--hopefully that still counts for something when facing a Tea Party Mad Hatter.

  13. Doug, you know that this isn't going to matter a hang if the Tea Partiers shovel money into the campaign, tell a bunch of outright lies at the last minute which are impossible to counter, and by default purchase the election - and the office.

    What's going to matter is if the electorate is logical and capable of critical thought.

  14. Another thorn in my side.

    We need some changes. The constitution has been misinterpreted, turned upside down & on its head.
    Let's make some serious changes to meet the times, before it's too late.


    In a comment to this blog that defined Un-Americans, my brother commented on adding ignorant & stupid. That's why.

    "this judge-til-you-drop approach could be changed by Constitutional means. I'd love to see a plan that would get out of Congress though."
    Has anyone even suggested it?

  16. Yeah Doug, I really stay away from this stuff but I do have my own opinions on it Doug. And I rarely say much - just so you know but I do find the writings most interesting.

  17. Your bother put it very well in phrases even the most daft Tea Partier could understand.

  18. Which means they must turn to facts and not emotions--like the fact that this ecominic ditch we are in is a systematic, not a cultural or a personal flaw of one or two politicians.

    The difficulty is this exactly the sort of sensibity that's hard to bring up when someone feels powerless.

  19. Well Doug, the War on Shopping position on this is that the more we turn off the TV and turn to the internet for our news and information..... the less influential the gangsters who fund stool pigeon politicos like Mr Robinson will be. Al Capone for President!

    This big money would be absolutely useless of course if more and more people ignore the corporate media and the 'consent' creation and PR indoctrination industry.....and discover for themselves the bigger and wider debate, the unexpurgated storyline emerging beyond the influence of the Bilderberg Mob.

    There is nothing even vaguely resembling democracy in this story here obviously, but all the same I am going to stick my neck out.... and because people are diversifying their information sources..... I am going to predict that Peter DeFazio is going to win the election anyway, despite all the dirty money attempting to pervert the course of natural justice that is thrown about by the Dick Dastardly Corporation, or whoever it is?

  20. I hope you're right, Aaron.

    Doug and I happen to live in the same state (Oregon), and we both thing that DeFazio's a good man.

  21. First off, AA, I agree whole hearted-ly---people need to go out or log on and find alternative sources of information, as you and Will and others have done for me with links to articles in some news websites I was unaware about. Thank you.

    The other admonition--to look beyond the superficial corporate "mess-age" and judge for oneself about matters not filtered by commercial interests: this is vital!

    In the Internet we have a tool at our fingertips to mine and make deductions information that our forebears would have given very much to have. It is a tool that can help find out connections we've either only suspected, or that we never know about which, if they pass muster, deserve to unveiled for public perusal.

    The Supreme Court "Citizens United" decision--a 5 to 4 "victory" for stealth campaign donations-- is indeed a dodge any good gangster would love to operate with.

    I think you're right about the De Fazio situation. Other districts and states need a better brand of political candidate in other places, though, and that will only come with much greater financial transparency and campaign finance reforms.

  22. I second both points, Will. Thanks.