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?