Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mark Green Broke the Law He Voted On

Yesterday I wrote, somewhat facetiously: "I'm...giving 5 to 1 odds that tomorrow's Journal Sentinel article on the decision will focus on the subsequent appeal should the ruling go against Green... ."

If you would've taken that bet, you would've lost.

Here's the headline on the front page of the JS today: "Green Plans Appeal."

What's most disturbing about this title is that it's part and parcel of an attempt to take emphasis off the heart of the matter, akin to the GOP's incessant focus on the activities of Michael Maistelman.

The purpose of the GOP's focus on Maistelman is clear -- there's no way to defend Green's actions using the law, so Republicans are opting to cloud the situation using conspiracy theories about the alleged impact of someone else's actions in an attempt to divert attention from what Green did.

Mark Green's own response to the ruling yesterday highlights this ploy: "Today's ruling did not give us more clarity."

This statement couldn't be further from the truth.

Judge Niess' ruling yesterday very clearly focuses in on the fact that Green's conversion of money from his federal account to his state account broke the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) passed in 2002 and updated in 2004, along with campaign finance laws in Wisconsin that limit campaign contributions to state accounts to $43,000 and change.

The legalities of the matter are very simple.

In 2002, the US Congress passed and President Bush signed the BCRA, which prescribes four specific allowable uses for federal campaign funds: 1) in a federal campaign, 2) toward the duties of holding federal office, 3) as contributions to approved organizations, 4) for transfer to a national, state, or local political party.

Once the BCRA became law in 2002, any conversion of money from a federal to a state campaign account was not allowed under federal law.

But in late 2004, Congress amended the BCRA to allow another usage for federal campaign funds -- "for donations to State and local candidates subject to the provisions of State law." This amendment went into effect on December 8, 2004.

According to Wisconsin state law, a donation to a state campaign fund cannot exceed $43,128, which means any donation of funds from a federal account to a state account is limited to this amount.

Therefore, Green's donation of $1.3 million from his federal account to his state account on January 25, 2005, clearly broke the regulation in the BCRA that the donation must abide by "the provisions of State law" because state law clearly states that no donations above and beyond $43,128 are allowed.

It just doesn't get any clearer than that.

As Judge Niess explained in his ruling (emphasis mine):

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In short, a “donation”...is a "contribution" subject to the limitations and other regulations contained in Chapter 11 of the Wisconsin statutes governing the use of money in Wisconsin political campaigns. Thus, even if the Court were to adopt Green's argument that the Elections Board should be enjoined from enforcing its Emergency Rule and Order because they are illegal for any number of reasons -- arguments which raise some serious and legitimate questions -- Green still cannot succeed on the ultimate merits of this case because the Court cannot grant the requested declaratory judgment finding "that funds a state campaign committee has on hand when it converts from federal registration are not counted against Wisconsin's contribution limits." ... Controlling federal law, through its incorporation of Wisconsin's campaign finance law, in fact compels the opposite finding.

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And Mark Graul's claim yesterday that the Green campaign must have received "innaccurate information" on the law is ridiculous.

To be sure, Mark Green voted on both the BCRA in 2002 and the amendment to it in 2004. So unless he's going to come out and say that he didn't understand what he was voting on as a congressman, then his campaign needs to drop the "I didn't know" charade.

This matter is not about what an election attorney did, nor is it about Mark Green's desperate appeal to a higher court.

This is about the illegal actions taken by the Green campaign when it violated the very law Congressman Green voted on by donating $1.3 million in funds from a federal campaign account to a state campaign account.

UPDATE: Xoff offers more on how badly the JS missed the mark with its article this morning.

2 Comments:

Blogger Ben Masel said...

Do you really think Green as a Congressman routinely read bills before voting on them, even when they were not presented just hours before being voted?

September 27, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Green knew about the BCRA amendment, as did most people on Capitol Hill -- Mark Graul even said so just days after the vote.

September 28, 2006  

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