Thursday, March 17, 2005

Campaign Finance Scam

Ryan Sager at the New York Post exposes the fraud that influenced the passage of McCain-Feingold:

CAMPAIGN-FINANCE reform has been an immense scam perpetrated on the American people by a cadre of left-wing foundations and disguised as a "mass movement."
But don't take my word for it. One of the chief scammers, Sean Treglia, a former program officer of the Pew Charitable Trusts, confesses it all in an astonishing videotape I obtained earlier this week.


Charged with promoting campaign-finance reform when he joined Pew in the mid-1990s, Treglia came up with a three-pronged strategy: 1) pursue an expansive agenda through incremental reforms, 2) pay for a handful of "experts" all over the country with foundation money and 3) create fake business, minority and religious groups to pound the table for reform.

"The target audience for all this activity was 535 people in Washington," Treglia says — 100 in the Senate, 435 in the House. "The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot — that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."

It's a stark admission, but perhaps Treglia should be thanked for his candor.
I have a different idea about that, since this information could have been obtained through honest reporting, as Sager points out at the end of his piece:
"But you know what the good news is from my perspective?" Treglia says to the stunned crowd. "Journalists didn't care . . . So no one followed up on the story. And so there was a panic there for a couple of weeks because we thought the story was going to begin to gather steam, and no one picked it up."

Treglia's right. While he admits Pew specifically instructed groups receiving its grants "never to mention Pew," all these connections were disclosed (as legally required) in various tax forms and annual reports. "If any reporter wanted to know, they could have sat down and connected the dots," he said. "But they didn't."
Here are some details of what this scam entailed:
* In September of 2000, less than two years before the passage of McCain-Feingold, the liberal magazine The American Prospect put out a special issue devoted to campaign-finance reform. With incredible hypocrisy, the magazine failed to tell its readers that the "Checkbook Democracy" issue was paid for with a $132,000 check from the Carnegie Corporation — which, again, has spent $14 million promoting the regulation of political speech in the last decade.

* Since 1994, National Public Radio has accepted more than $1.2 million from liberal foundations promoting campaign-finance reform for items such as (to quote the official disclosure statements) "news coverage of financial influence in political decision-making." About $400,000 of that directly funded a program called, "Money, Power and Influence."


* Lastly, the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation accepted $935,000 between 1995 and 2001 from liberal foundations promoting campaign-finance reform for things like a "training initiative to help television, radio and print journalists provide better news coverage of the influence of private money on electoral, legislative and regulatory processes."
There are some qualifications that I have ommitted here to conserve space, so read the whole piece. Sager also links to a partial transcript of Treglia's speech. (The transcript page includes a video link.) Here is an interesting quote from Treglia that didn't make it into Sager's article:
...I knew, having worked on the Hill, and having run several campaigns, Congress wasn't going to vote for a full public-financing bill, and frankly no one in America was going to support a full public-financing bill. It's welfare for politicians.

There were the same old advocacy groups ... who were calling for reform, and they had lost legitimacy inside Washington because they didn't have a constituency that would punish Congress if they didn't vote for reform...

We wanted to expand the voices calling for reform to include the business community, to include minority organizations and to include religious groups, to counter the Christian Coalition....[emphasis mine]
This is a much bigger story than Rathergate because this was a fraud that actually worked. I hope the blogosphere gets on top of this one to help bring down McCain-Feingold.
(Via: Instapundit)

UPDATE: Sager has more video clips on his blog. I originally assumed that these were the same clips on the NY Post page but three of them are new.

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