OR-4: Anonymous DeFazio Attack-Ad Funder Revealed

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

As has been discussed here on BlueOregon - and on NPR, MSNBC, and the Washington Post - Congressman Peter DeFazio has been the subject of a series of relentless attack ads running in his district.

What's so curious about them is that the identity of the people running the ads has been a complete secret, even after DeFazio went to the DC townhouse that's listed as the contact address.

But now, it's been revealed that the "Concerned Taxpayers of America" are really just two people. Two very rich guys who appear to want to take out Peter DeFazio and Congressman Frank Kratovil (D-MD). One of the rich guys is a concrete company owner from Maryland, who presumably has a beef with Rep. Kratovil (since he's also his opponent's largest single donor.)

The other guy, who appears to dislike DeFazio, is named Robert Mercer. According to the Washington Post, Mercer is a New York hedge fund executive - whose family has donated $9600 to DeFazio opponent Art Robinson

Why does Mercer hate DeFazio, to the tune of $200,000 in attack ads? He's not saying. But DeFazio has an idea:

DeFazio said in an interview Saturday that he remains mystified by the group's attacks on him, but noted that he co-sponsored legislation to levy a tax on major hedge-fund transactions. Mercer's firm, Renaissance Technologies, is one of the leading hedge-fund companies on Wall Street and would be dramatically impacted by such a proposal.

"I have been one of the most prominent critics of Wall Street and tried to call them to account," DeFazio said. "I've obviously made some powerful enemies."

And of course, a villain isn't a villain unless he's got some weird personal hang-up. Cue Jeff Mapes at the O:

The Journal described Mercer as a political conservative and National Rifle Association member who tends to avoid contact with the firm's employees outside of official meetings.

"I'm happy going through my life without saying anything to anybody," Mercer told the Journal. He said that he enjoyed playing with a giant model train railroad in the basement of his Long Island mansion. (Interestingly, though, he filed a lawsuit accusing a contractor of overcharging him about $2 million for building the setup, which he said was actually only worth about $700,000).

Yeah, a gazillionaire with two-million-dollar model train set. You can't make this stuff up.

All I know is, I don't want him anywhere near our democracy.

"I have been one of the most prominent critics of Wall Street and tried to call them to account. I've obviously made some powerful enemies."

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      Instead of limiting to the voice of some group ( an idea that can quickly backfire on you) you should lobby to limit what government can do. The commerce clause has been used well beyond its intended purpose as most clauses in the Constitution have. People do not like the method I propose because while they want to stop someone else from empowering government with rights they themselves do not have, those same people still with to influence government with their own agenda and collective power to do something else just as ugly. This is how we have arrived at this mess. The courts nor the people will show any self restraint.

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    So, Kari, this guy shouldn't have a voice because he's rich and has an expensive train set?

    Maybe he's a weird dude, and I agree that his attacks are unwarranted, but he has just as much freedom and access to our "democracy" as you do.

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        "Free speech should mean free speech."

        Exactly. When the Founders wrote the First Amendment I'm sure they were thinking of the guy standing on a soap box in the park or passing out handbills in the town square, not billionaires and giant corporations buying elections -- and doing it on the sneak, at that.

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      Who suggested that any individual not have a voice?

      I love the feigned victimhood "conservatives" caterwauling when the issue of campaign finance disclosure and the push to put individually citizens on an equal footing vs. corporations, unions, wealthy, etc. comes up.

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      "he has just as much freedom and access to our "democracy" as you do."

      No, he has the "freedom and access" that someone in our society can buy if he's a billionaire.

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    There are subtleties to campaign finance about which we might have a long and fruitful discussion. But with regard to the question "should donors be able to anonymously dump unlimited funds into campaign advertising?", the discussion should be very, very short. No.

    There's nothing in the constitution that defends secret political speech. You want to say a politician eats live kittens for breakfast, fine. But you have to go on the record. Can't we all agree on that point?

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    Lost in all of this is the little-noticed fact that Jamestown Associates (who are "managing" the formerly anonymous funds attacking DeFazio) is the same outfit that the National Republican Senatorial Committee just canned for the "hickey" ad call in Pennsylvania for the West Virginia commercial that's been roiling controversy the past week.

    Hilariously, the NRSC claims that it was because Jamestown Associates "lied" ... to NRSC.

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    Off topic: Another close gov. poll, Kitz up by 1,48-47, PPP: http://politicalwire.com/archives/2010/10/19/too_close_to_call_in_oregon.html

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    My point was rhetorical.

    And leave it a certain somebody to act like a child. Even if I think someone's point is unintelligent, I have never - and will never - stoop to calling a person an idiot or saying they deserve an insult. I'd hope that people would be a little more mature than that, but I digress.

    I don't like how large corporations or millionaires can buy elections either. However, to suggest it happens only on the Republican side is nonsense. It happens at all levels. I can't tell you how many negative adds I saw last night from PAC's on both sides, and we all know those monies came from rich contributors, not at the grassroots level.

    So do we cap contributions based on annual salary? Do we cap it at a percentage? Do we limit the freedom of someone to spend money? How do we control it without taking someone's right to spend their money the way they want? And of course I don't agree with money being spent secretly. I support full disclosure, and would want any group or person to be called out when they don't. And I wouldn't support a candidate who KNOWINGLY took money from such a group.

    Personally, I struggle with believing it's unfair for the rich to control elections, but I equally struggle with limiting freedom therein.

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    Two points

    -Full disclosure-no secret donors, no shadowy cabals. If you donate then disclose who you are so voters can make an informed decison. The old "company you keep" argument.

    -Defazio rocks!

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    Joshua, the problem with you calling Jason an "idiot" is that there is no evidence of million or billionaires buying elections. You just assert this as if it is true.

    Take the case in front of us. Has this ad made any impact at all in the DeFazio race? Is this election being "bought"? No. It is a silly misdirected expenditure.

    And I may be an idiot by your measure as well, but I also noted this comment from Kari: "Yeah, a gazillionaire with two-million-dollar model train set. You can't make this stuff up. All I know is, I don't want him anywhere near our democracy."

    Not sure why spending 2 million on a train set is any different than the silly expenditures rich folks make all the time, regardless of their political leanings.


    There are good arguments for requiring public disclosure of donations, but the anonymity argument being used here is a weak one.

    I wonder if people here have really thought through what they are advocating--for revealing the source of all political communications.

    Reporters rely on anonymous sources all the time and this has been defended in the Courts. Voting is anonymous. McIntyre vs. Ohio Elections, authored by Justice Stevens, struck down an Ohio law than banned the distribution of anonymous pamphlets. Anyone remember a little publication called the Federalist Papers, written by "Publius"?

    Jeff is right, this is a complex and at time tortuous issue. Interested readers may want to subscribe to the Election Law listserv in which some of the leading lawyers and jurists debate this issue, sometimes going on far too long.

    For the time being, we are stuck with a Citizens united world, and the next step is probably going to be to strike down the limits on individual contributions.

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