Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hear All that Noise from the GOP Today?

It's an attempt to drown out stories like this: "Justice Department: Green Transfer Illegal."

The Journal Sentinel is giving the headline some significant play on its website this afternoon. It remains to be seen whether it gets the same front-page love that the Maistelman story got today.

Here are a few important snippets from the DOJ brief:
  • "Green places great emphasis on past actions and opinions of the Board, ascribing to such actions and decisions a precedential or stare decisis status this it implores the Court to adopt. Not only is such reliance on previous Board actions and opinions misplaced, it is largely irrelevant to the legal issues of the current dispute, given the substantial changes in federal and state law regarding campaign financing that have been enacted over the past four years" (page 3).
  • "In late 2004...Congress amended [the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA)] by adding two additional allowed uses of federal campaign funds. The fifth provision allowed the use of such funds 'for donations to State and local candidates subject to the provisions of State law.' ... This allowed federal campaign committees to move funds to state campaign committees, but only in the form of 'donations,' and such donations were required to be made in conformance with state law. ... In Wisconsin, a committee is limited by statute to only contributing certain amounts to state or local campaigns. For Governor, for example, a committee may contribute no more than $43,128.00. ... Therefore, following the 2004 amendments to BCRA, a federal campaign committee was limited to contributing no more than $43,128.00 to any candidate for Governor in Wisconsin during an election cycle" (pages 6-7).
  • "Green's claims of being damaged by the Board's actions are curious, given that, as noted above, Green should only have been allowed to receive a one-time donation from Congressman Green's federal campaign fund in the amount of $43,128.00, pursuant to federal and state law, with the remainder of the $1.3 million remaining in the federal campaign account. The Board, however, has to date only directed Green to return approximately $500,000 of the roughly $1.3 million that was illegally converted to Green for Wisconsin" (page 10).
So you can add the Wisconsin DOJ to the list of groups and people who think the use of unregistered PAC money by Congressman Green in a state election is illegal. And, not only that, the DOJ thinks Green should need to divest much more than just the illegal PAC money.

But out of all of those who feel Green acted illegally, the GOP will do its best over the next few weeks to focus attention on three of the people, while conveniently ignoring (or drowning out) the rest.

UPDATE: Looks like we'll have a ruling from the Dane County judge on Monday, but not the final ruling on the case as a whole. According to WisPolitics, "[Judge] Niess said he was trying to expedite the case because he doesn't expect to have the final word in the matter."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok - with all that is legally swirling around today, does it bother you at all that the Doyle-campaign attorney had email communications with board members where the agreed upon outcome was decided? The ruling was discussed and massaged, then agreed to prior to the hearing where evidence was produced.

Right or wrong, having a ruling and a PR strategy all wrapped up before the hearing just smells.

The board members involved are not even pretending to follow the oath they took to be impartial.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger Ben Masel said...

Idiotic for the doyle campaign to have their Atty contact Board members before the vote. Not necesarily illegal, but why give Green this ammunition? The only player looking good right now is Jacob Burns, the Libertarian on the Elections Board.

September 21, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...


I discussed my reactions to the Maistelman story in this post. I think it was ridiculous for the Doyle camp to get involved.

But you're making a huge unfounded leap by assuming that Maistelman was a deciding factor in the state Elections Board decision. There is absolutely no evidence of that.

There is, however, evidence to the contrary -- two other members of the board who had no contact with Maistelman, including the Libertarian member, also voted against Green. Plus, the case laid out by the DOJ in its brief is quite solid -- we'll see exactly how solid on Monday. Top that all off with the fact that the charges were brought in the first place by the non-partisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, and you have all sorts of reasons why someone would call Green out on his unregistered PAC money (to say nothing of his individual donations that exceed the $10,000 maximum) -- reasons that have nothing to do with Maistelman.

September 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

McCabe non-partisan? Puh-lease...

Also - seems the JS editorial smells the foul stench as well..

You are too smart to push this - evidence to the contrary nonsense - becasue reasonable people can see when the fix is in. You are too smart for that.

Mark Green had every reason to believe that his actions, identical to Barrett's, would be found legal.

September 22, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The WDC has gone after Doyle on numerous occasions, including the Thompson conviction. And "Puh-lease" doesn't exactly make strong evidence for why you seem to think McCabe favors the Dems.

The JS editors make the same leap in logic that you're making -- they assume Maistelman's lobbying had an impact on the actual vote. The fact that two other people on the board voted against Green despite not having contact with Maistelman puts a big hole in that assumption. Until someone provides evidence to the contrary, I won't be sold on the argument that Maistelman had undo influence on the board's decision, though I stand by my point yesterday that allowing Maistelman to get involved in the matter was a dumb move politically and ethically.

The attempt to avert the law by transferring and then spending his federal campaign cash was also dumb move politically and ethically for Green -- it just so happens that it was also illegal.

I encourage you to read the DOJ brief, if you haven't done so already. It lays out a strong case against Green, and, most importantly for the ruling on Monday, it shreds Green's defense that the prior rulings of the EB hold precedence. To be sure, the EB is not a court, it's a quasi-legislative body that can change rules from year to year, just like the actual legislature. And the EB did change its rules on spending unregistered PAC money the day after Green made his illegal fund transfer -- Green proceeded to spend the unregistered PAC money, nonetheless.

And to claim that Green had every reason to believe his actions were identical to Barrett's is just plain ridiculous. Green voted on the BCRA in 2002 and on the amendment in 2004 – both of which went into effect after Barrett transferred his campaign money – that outlawed the full conversion of money from a federal to a state campaign fund. Here's the roll call vote on the amendment that only allows a "donation" that's subject to state laws to go from a federal to a state campaign fund -- Green voted against it, but he still voted on it. So unless he's going to come out and say that he didn't understand what he was voting on as a congressman, then he needs to drop the "he did it, too" charade.

We’ll see for sure how things pan out on Monday. But Green should feel lucky at this point that the order wasn't to divest all but $43,128 of his $1.3 million in federal campaign cash, which is what the law says he should do.

September 22, 2006  

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