Friday, September 24, 2010

Fake Populists

I just saw a political ad last night on a local TV station sponsored by Americans for Job Security. I knew immediately it had to be a astroturf front group for some right wing operatives. Fell asleep thinking I should check it out this morning. And then this morning, in a moment of the kind of synchronicity I love about the internets, the NYT unearths an obscure, years old lawsuit from Alaska, that explains exactly who they are.
But after the mine’s supporters filed a complaint with the state, it became clear that what was depicted as grass-roots opposition was something else entirely: Americans for Job Security, investigators found, had helped create the illusion of a popular upwelling to shield the identity of a local financier who paid for most of the referendum campaign. More broadly, they said, far from being a national movement advocating a “pro-paycheck message,” the group is actually a front for a coterie of political operatives, devised to sidestep campaign disclosure rules.

“Americans for Job Security has no purpose other than to cover various money trails all over the country,” the staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission said in a report last year. [...]

As for Mr. DeMaura, it turns out he is the sole employee of Americans for Job Security, a 25-year-old former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party who cut his political teeth as an undergraduate by starting an anti-Hillary Clinton Facebook page.
This group dances on the knife edge of illegal advocacy by reporting all its revenue as “membership dues.” But the membership dues aren't fixed. Members pay whatever amount they want to. In the Alaskan case, The guy who wanted to quash the mine so as to protect the bucolic splendor of his hunting camp "decided to join by giving $2 million in 'membership fees.'" The fees aren't assessed annually either and their alleged membership "fluctuates wildly" depending on whether it's an election year.

They could hardly be more brazen about skirting the law.
None have been more active than Americans for Job Security, which spent $6 million on ads during the primary season. This week, emboldened by the court ruling, the group paid close to $4 million more for ads directly attacking nine Democratic candidates for Congress. That made it among the first to abandon the old approach of running ads that stopped just short of explicitly urging voters to elect or reject individual candidates.
The court ruling they're speaking of here is of course, John Robert's SCOTUS ruling -- Citizens United. Which is a good reminder of why, no matter how bitter the disappointments or how ineffectual their governance, it's still better to elect the idiot Democrats. If Bush hadn't been re-elected in 04, SCOTUS would have been a very different court.

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