Down the Stretch: Watching the GOP Lawbreaking in WA-08

by: Matt Stoller

Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 12:01


A beautiful set of berries in Bellevue from earlier this year

One of the biggest competitive disadvantages for Democrats is our unwillingness to break the law for our own benefit.  Where law is weak and meaningless, like election law, the Republicans go nuts.  And that's what Dave Reichert is doing, as he somehow found a corporate media firm (Media Plus) to give him $500K to help him down the stretch.  Basically, instead of getting a bank loan, which he can't get because banks won't lend to political campaigns without collateral, Reichert's campaign is getting a loan from his media firm, which is buying TV ad time on credit from four corporate TV stations and extending his campaign credit.  This is basically a corporate campaign contribution, and corporate money in politics is ostensibly illegal (ha ha, tell the US Chamber of Commerce that).  The Federal Election Commission is obviously toothless and irrelevant these days, totally unwilling to do anything about lawbreaking during elections, when it actually matters.  And the press doesn't care, since one FEC complaint looks like another.

Matt Stoller :: Down the Stretch: Watching the GOP Lawbreaking in WA-08
Reichert's media firm is also extending this deal to Dino Rossi, the Republican gubernatorial candidate boosted by about ten million dollars of money from developers with whom he's illegally coordinating.  Their agenda is basically eviscerating smart growth regulations and increasing sprawl.  Still, why would Media Plus make such a risky bet with no upside?  Why make an incredibly high risk loan to Reichert and Rossi for no upside?

Well, Media Plus is a major PR firm with government and corporate contracts, including local drug stores, mobile homes, and a slew of Republican politicians.  I don't know what kind of money is sloshing around in that company, or what kind of deal they've cut.  Companies don't just put a $500k into a risky campaign for an irrelevant Congressman, and a further slug of cash into a campaign for a GOP Governor without some sort of rationale.

But the consequences are the same.  Reichert will be outspending Darcy down the stretch, with commercials going back to back to back slamming her as a tax raiser and using my video footage of 'FISA sucks'.  The NRCC will be on the air as well, following on the US Chamber of Commerce and the NFIB.  This is the only Congressional race in the country where the Democrats will be outspent (sorry, I meant top-tier), and there was no way to plan for this.  You can't plan for a half a million dollar corporate contribution.

Now, there are only two possible routes to respond.  One is legal; file for an injunction or complain to the FEC.  Neither of these will have effect, since neither will be resolved before the election, after which time Reichert and Media Plus might or might not be fined, but it won't matter.  That's what it means for election law to be weak and irrelevant.  The other response is up to us.  Can we offset some of this illegal corporate cash with a fundraiser or our own?

I don't like bringing this up, because we've all dug deep already.  But there really is no other choice at this point.  It's up to us.  Donna Edwards and Brad Miller has thrown in for Darcy.  Lots of you have already kicked in.

I've set a goal for our Actblue page for Better Democrats of $50,000.  We're currently at a touch below $40,000, with an average donor size of slightly less than $100.  OpenLeft traffic is around 50,000 readers a day, which means if just over 1% of you hit the contribute button for two days in a row we should hit that goal easily.  

Head over to that page and kick in a bit.  With Better Democrats in Congress and hundred seat majorities, we can put a stop to this rampant lawbreaking from Republicans.  But it's not going to stop on its own.  We've got to get our people in Congress.  There's no substitute for more good votes, and it's impossible to put a price on great leadership.

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I'll donate, but there's a third response, too: (0.00 / 0)
Trying to push this into the local media there. Now we know what the 'Plus' in 'Media Plus' stands for: an illegal half-million dollar campaign contribution to Republicans.

Anyway, if anyone has a handy list of the appropriate media, perhaps an email campaign? Or something more effective than that?

Not the only district (0.00 / 0)
At present there are probably at least 20 to 30 districts where Republicans are outspending Democrats.  Using the 9/30 expenditures from the FEC and the cumulative independent expenditures as reported by Swing State Project these would include (numbers in thousands, combined expenditures).  Here's 15 of them:

NJ-4 Smith 404; Zeitz 242
NJ-5 Garrett 894; Shulman 634
PA-3 English 2250; Dahlkemper 1795
PA-5 Thompson 190; McCracken 40
PA-6 Gerlach 1483; Roggio 367
DE At L: Castle 1381; Hartley Nagle 17
OH-3: Turner 559; Mitakiades 348
OH-7: Austria 780; Neuhardt 373
OH-14: LaTourette 629; O'Neill 416
IL-6: Roskam 1290; Morgenthaler 540
IL-14: Oberweiss 4651; Foster 3910
IL-18: Schock 1839; Callahan 390
MN-2: Kline 1017; Sarvi 306
PA-15: Dent 970; Bennett 574

Got to finish the list but one could include CA-26 (Dreier), CA-46 (Rohrabacher), CA-45 (Bono Mack) in the list along with NC-5 (Foxx), NC-8 (Kissell), NC-10 (McHenry), WV-2 (Capito), VA-2 (Drake).  

Seattle PI/Times assignment writer on Darcy (0.00 / 0)
at least one of 'em:

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246

We can't come up with anything near half a million (0.00 / 0)
I don't know which is the largest fundraiser the netroots has ever done, but Darcy's housefire raised what, $300k?  It would take an effort like that to meaningfully combat this.

Is there really no way to get the press to bite on this story?  "Reichert, Rossi receive illegal in-kind contribution"?  "Millions in illegal loans to Rossi, Reichert"?  That would be the only way to hit them back at anything like the scale that they're hitting us.

This is an eye-opening experience though.  Did this not happen last cycle?

Well, we could try contacting Keith and/or Rachel and MSNBC (0.00 / 0)
I know that they've got a lot of stuff to cover, but it can't hurt to try, maybe one of them can squeeze it into their show somewhere.  Maybe Keith can make Reichert his Worst Person in the World.  :)

I couldn't find an e-mail address for Countdown, but might work.

[ Parent ]
Seattle Times article (0.00 / 0)
Here's a Seattle Times article covering the subject. My e-mail to the reporter:

Dear Ms. Heffler:

I just read your recent article, "Burner loans campaign $140,000 for ads."
Most of the way through, you state that KOMO and KIRO extended credit to
Reichert to run ads, a practice that is arguably illegal, and almost
certainly unethical, considering that the networks present themselves as
unbiased. Other sources say that KOMO lent $500,000 in airtime.

Can you please explain why $500,000 in possibly illegal and unethical credit
is buried at the bottom of an article about $140,000 in completely legal
credit? Personally, I would much rather read about the $500,000.

If the Times is coming out with another article about the $500,000, then I

The truth about Saxby Chambliss

reporter's response (0.00 / 0)

The $140,000 is verifiable through public records and is a fact. The $500,000 is an estimate (by the Burner campaign) and is a practice that the FEC says is likely legal. If the Burner campaign sues Reichert or otherwise pursues the issue, we'll likely cover it, and we may cover it anyway . As for yesterday, though, I led with the $140,000 because it is fact, and the questions about the loan seemed more to me like political rhetoric. (That's likely why only left-leaning blogs are covering it as "possibly illegal and unethical credit" today.)

The truth about Saxby Chambliss


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