Wild Wild West: Anonymous attack ads target Peter DeFazio

Jesse Cornett

Blue Oregon made the most positive change in its six-year history a few months ago. Do you remember when it was the wild wild west and anybody could post anything they wanted under a pseudonym? I disliked it and was enthusiastic for the change because before hand, every anonymous commenter was akin to a bad sniper, just shooting at anything that came into its sites. It was no way to run a website intended to have meaningful commentary.

Meanwhile, court decisions this past year, starting with this one have essentially legalized this same underhanded anonymous sniping but this time in a place we can afford it the least -- Federal elections. As a result more than 30 “super PAC’s” have formed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in congressional and senate races yet so long as they maintain a modicum of independence from candidates, they don’t have to report where they receive a single dime.

In Oregon this week we just got our first dose of what this ruling will mean when the Concerned Taxpayers of America began an ad blitz in Southern Oregon, threatening to spend unlimited amounts of money to defeat US Congressman Peter DeFazio. Though commercials will air in heavy rotation voters will have no idea who is paying to try to influence their decisions.

I personally don’t always agree with Congressman DeFazio. While I’m fan of his in general, his unwillingness to support certain progressive issues – with the DREAM Act being near and dear to my heart this week, frustrate me. But to paste him as nothing but a foot soldier for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as the ads attempt to do, is making things up from thin air. To be honest, if anything his inability to go along with Speaker Pelosi and President Obama is much more noteworthy. DeFazio was famously chided by President Obama in a House Caucus meeting telling DeFazio, “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother,” in reference to his no vote on stimulus legislation. And Speaker Pelosi has him on her shit list as well.

That doesn’t matter one bit to Jason Miller and his DC-based PAC called Concerned Taxpayers of America. By all accounts, both are completely anonymous. One can’t find information on them and because of the court ruling even if we knew who Jason was, he’d never be required to report his contributors. He’s probably never stepped foot in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, yet here he is spending unlimited amounts of money running television ads on the race, without disclosing where the money is coming from – unnecessarily turning Oregon it back into the wild wild west.

How unfortunate.

Comments

  • (Show?)

    Today, a vote on the DISCLOSE Act, which would have simply made this spending more transparent, was blocked from a vote in the US Senate.

    And to preempt those who say disclosure is an impediment to free speech, it's not. It increases the public discourse because it provides the public with relevant information to the issues and candidates. A democracy is about OPEN discussion of issues, not anonymous attacks.

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      Yep. Every single GOP Senator voted against public knowing who will be buying their influence with them in the future, with the exception of Hutchison (R-TX), Murkowski, both of whom didn't vote at all.

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        Thats a total misrepresentation of that bill Mitchell and you know it. That bill was all about silencing the majority before the midterms with no mechanism for SCOTUS review before the elections. It was garbage and it belonged to merkely who won't have to desperately sweat his re-election for 4 more years. The fact that only Dem's voted for it is more of a statement bout who they are than who the opposition is

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          Not misrepresenting anything.

          As I noted above, the DISCLOSE Act would increase transparency of corporate and special-interest money in national political campaigns. It would require organizations involved in political campaigning to simply disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund. It would also bar foreign corporations, government contractors and TARP recipients from making political expenditures.

          Notably, the bill would exempt all long-standing, non-profit organizations with more than 500,000 members (such as the NRA) from the part about having to disclose their donor lists.

          So please tell me how I have been making a "total misrepresentation" of the bill?

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      The DISCLOSE Act was the biggest pile of unconstitutional garbage that has come out of congress since they tried to silence the majority the last time with the "fairness doctrine" why can't the left start showing some respect for everyone's free speech rights and not just the peoples who they agree with? I noticed that the Oregonian wasn't calling the Republicans liars ...they were calling the democrats liars! (it was next to the story describing Kitz's bribe taking and next to the ad where the liberal and corrupt SEIU was busy lying about Governor Dudley. I would clean my own house before I started pointing fingers there comrade. As for the attack against DeFazio ...I agree it was not justified I like DeFazio for all of the reasons you guys don't but I like him just the same. He votes based upon what he thinks is best for Oregon (his immigration views etc) I don't like a lot of his votes but I like and totally respect a man who honestly does his best to represent his constituents. The ads should have targeted the Pelosi- Reid rubber stamps in Oregon like Wyden Wu and Blumenauer ...2 of those 3 are bought and paid for and Wu isn't smart enough to come in out of the rain. But Defazio? The ad does not fairly describe Rep DeFazio...

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        how does it violate free speech? government contractors have a CHOICE to be a government contractor, and there is the risk of corruption by allowing them to contribute, which is one of the reasons the SCOTUS has determined you can regulate campaign spending.

        so where is the free speech restriction?

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        How is it even close to being "unconstitutional"...?

        The DISCLOSE Act would increase transparency of corporate and special-interest money in national political campaigns. It would require organizations involved in political campaigning to simply disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund. It would also bar foreign corporations, government contractors and TARP recipients from making political expenditures.

        Notably, the bill would exempt all long-standing, non-profit organizations with more than 500,000 members (such as the NRA) from the part about having to disclose their donor lists.

        So what pat of that is "unconstitutional" and bad in your view...?

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          The DISCLOSE Act unconstitutionally exempts some groups from it's requirements and not other groups, which is as clear a violation of the Constitution as you will find. It violates equal protection under the law, and it picks and chooses who may engage in free speech and who may not. It suppresses free speech for some and not for others.How is it unconstitutional? It unfairly limits the free political speech of some Americans while giving an unfair advantage to unions and certain lobbyists -- lobbyists including the National Rifle Association and Big Labor groups such as the AFL-CIO and the SEIU. …the bill also exempts 401C4 organizations with over 500,000 members.

          U-N-C-O-N-S-T-I-T-U-T-I-O-N-A-L, and discriminatory. Here's more:

          "The Democratic majority in the House jammed through a piece of legislation that clearly violates the Constitution, as well as basic principles of fairness and equity," U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said in a statement.

          The bottom line here is this – The Democrats knew the DISCLOSE Act is unconstitutional, but they didn't care. If they could have passed the legislation into law in July-august they calculated it will not be overturned by the courts in time for the november elections, and that's their endgame here. The Democrats are knowingly putting forth an unconstitutional law because they think it will help them in this one election cycle.

          Thus, in addition to willfully violating the U.S. Constitution, they are committing election fraud…with the full support of the President Of The United States Of America]

          pathetic

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    We need to infiltrate these groups, get some moles w/hacking skills.

    They want a war let's give 'em one!

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    You are over-simplifying the DISCLOSE ACT. It does more than just require disclosure; it bars certain entities from making political expenditures. If all it did was require disclosure as the title implies my guess is it would have passed.

    http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h5175/show

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      ok, yeah, government contractors and foreign corps couldn't make expenditures. you have a problem with that?

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        I would like to see us focus on getting good disclosure first.

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          So requiring organizations involved in political campaigning to simply disclose the identity of the large donors, and to reveal their identities in any political ads they fund is not good disclosure?

          So you don't think that barring foreign corporations, government contractors and TARP recipients from making political expenditures is important?

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            Either we are all equal under the law or we or not. When we start barring people from having a voice, we empower the State to choose who can criticize and who cannot. Not a can of worms you want to open. Unions for example are exempted from this law, yet they are not individuals. If we want fairness everyone must have an equal chance to be heard. Fear mongering about foreign corporations is just a tool btw. Just like the Patriot Act. Its not about protecting us, its about knowing who is criticizing the system and silencing them. The problem is when you silence the bad you also silence the good.So yes I am against silencing Tarp recipients if it means grass roots organizations like Campaign for Liberty lose their voice. This should be about principles btw, not if you like the person speaking or their voice. There are very few principles discussed here, only ideas that violate principles and methods to control others. This law only appeals to people who are afraid of ideas being out there without being able to control those ideas. Keep in mind when the nation was founded most of the letters to the editor were anonymous. The nation that was once the most free in the world was founded on the very principles of uncontrolled unidentifiable writers. The disclose act is a violation of the very core of American principles.

            • (Show?)

              The Hatch Act restricts government employees from "having a voice." How would limiting corporations who have government contracts be much different?

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              So you think that the Saudi Royal family should be able to spend unlimited, undisclosed money to influence our elections?

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                With free speech comes good and bad. We cannot have it both ways where we limit those we do not like and then expect that we ourselves can maintain freedom. Also this bill is not about the Saudi family at all. That is smoke and mirrors. Fear is powerful and they are using it to get you to violate free speech.

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                  This does more than limit companies that have government contracts btw. It exempts a few bought and paid for large pacs and slams the smaller new ones.

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                    I already listed up-thread what this bill would do. You seem to have issues with disclosure, preventing Government contractors and foreign countries form buying our elections.

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                      thats not what he said at all mitchell ...you are the one who has a problem with everyone disclosing ... why should unions be exempt...or the NRA?

                • (Show?)

                  So you think that foreign countries should have unfettered, undisclosed spending to influence U.S> election, did I get you right?

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                    So what I hear from you, is that if you don't like a group you simply want to block them from the political process. Did I get you right?

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                      No, what you are hearing from me is that foreign governments should not be corrupting our election process.

                      You are also hearing from me that I think shutting off what amounts to legalized bribery in the form of quid-pro-quo contributions would be good for our political process. Where our elected representatives listen to the people as opposed to who lines their campaign coffers with unregulated, undisclosed dollars.

            • (Show?)

              unions are not exempted from this law. read it.

          • (Show?)

            the disclose act was written so that there was no expedited review prior to the midterm elections Mitchell and if full disclosure is such a good thing then everyone can do it not just the people Obama and the left don't like...you can't be against that can you ...I mean fair is fair right?

  • (Show?)

    I am on the record as not being in favor of the Facebook login on Blue Oregon- I prefer user names on political blogs. There are many (larger) political blogs that use moderators to better effect and have a lot of reasoning behind their user name policy. I have always acknowledged that trolling is an issue; something is lost either way and in my opinion more is lost with the Facebook login.

    I feel very VERY differently about disclosure in the context of campaign finance. I am not sure about the utility of the comparison between campaign finance disclosure and commenting on Blue Oregon.

    • (Show?)

      There are many (larger) political blogs that use moderators to better effect and have a lot of reasoning behind their user name policy.

      Give me some money to hire a full-time moderator - and tell me what rules we should use that a) create open discussion, b) squash trolls and paid shills, and c) prevent moderation based on the momentary personal political whims of the moderator.

      In my view, forcing the use of real identities satisfies all of those goals - with zero ongoing financial costs.

      (Item C is especially tough - since there's no way to prove that we didn't put our thumb on the scale. We already get lots of accusations along those lines, and it's not even remotely true. I don't give one whit if there are conservative viewpoints here - as long as their not paid shills or engaged in trolling. And given my day job, I'm not interested in accusations that we're tilting the playing field in favor of particular campaigns.)

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        p.s. I've heard from a number of larger political blogs that they're watching our experiment in earnest - and strongly considering making the same move.

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        you get accused of putting your thumb on the scale kari because you block people who's opinions and comments you don't agree with... would you like a list of some names of people who are on facebook with lots of friends and who didn't troll and weren't on anyone's payroll you have banned ?? If you don't give one wit then why don't you unblock those people?

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          No--Kari obviously doesn't block people on the basis of disagreeing with their opinions. Otherwise you wouldn't be here yammering all the time.

          The policy here is clear: use your real name and your established Facebook account. It isn't exactly rocket science.

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        Of course moderating is an extra effort and expense, and only worth it if you believe in it. I think an unwillingness to acknowledge the policies' effect on earnest contributions (as opposed to focusing only on the policies' effect on trolling) does not get the full picture.

        Again this is personal preference and my choice is to accept the policy in order to participate. But user names can work, are possible even on a budget, and can enhance contributions EVEN as while they are more permissive to trolling. I'm not responsible for a feasibility study in the case of Blue Oregon, but I appreciate being allowed to share my opinion.

        • (Show?)

          Personally, I'd rather not have moderating. People should be able to say what they want to say (with a few exceptions: racist stuff or inciting violence, for example). If you're unwilling to put your real name next to your words, then perhaps its not worth saying in the first place.

          • (Show?)

            "If you're unwilling to put your real name next to your words, then perhaps its not worth saying in the first place."

            I know this principle SEEMS as if it should be straight forward, but my opinion is formed by experience that has shown me that "accountability" policies do not help to facilitate the highest possible level of discourse in the way that many assume they do.

          • (Show?)

            Actually, Carla, that is the whole ideology behind the DISCLOSE act as well.

            I have noticed a dramatic drop in the number of lies posted on BlueOregon, and I attribute that to they fact that the liars have to put their names next to what they say.

            • (Show?)

              Oh its more than that my angry "man child" tyrant. The bill wishes to stop people from criticizing the government 120 days before elections. Blue Oregon did not implement the policy to stop criticism or lies or else you would be banned at least for lies that is. They did it to keep the arguments proper. Something you would not understand as you pound your head in ignorance against freedom and justice and all that is proper and good.

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    Never used my FaceBook page much, but I like the idea of folks having to put their identities where thir mouths are (pity political contributions can't be handled the same way. Hope Blue Oregon continues in ths mode. Meanwhile, I'll be logging onto FaceBook oftener.

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