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Right Turn
Posted at 09:20 AM ET, 04/15/2011

New York Times partially corrects a non-transparent attack dog

On April 4 the New York Times carried an op-ed column by one David Callahan that read much like Soros-sponsored attacks on the Koch brothers that we’ve been seeing for some time. He wrote, in part, “Though some of their organizational ties are public, many are unknown, thanks to a provision in the tax code that allows the Koch brothers and other donors, on both the left and the right, to conceal the recipients of their largess, even as they get to write it off on their taxes.” Callahan is a senior fellow at Demos, a left-wing group that receives funding from George Soros through his Open Society Institute.

The letter provoked a letter of complaint from Koch Industries’ general counsel demanding a retraction over a number of factual errors (including basic statements regarding charitable giving), the most important of which were these two:

First, Mr. Callahan’s description of what the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allows is completely incorrect and his entire analysis seems to rely on his erroneous understanding of this case and its effects. 501c4 groups have always been permitted to accept unlimited corporate, union, and individual contributions without publicly revealing their donors except to the Internal Revenue Service. Further, these groups could spend unlimited amounts on lobbying, grass roots activities, voter registration and other advocacy. In fact, as the Times reported at the time of the Citizens United decision in January 2010, the Supreme Court decided by an 8 to 1 majority to uphold the Federal Election Commission’s disclosure requirements for 501c4 groups like Citizens United.

Second, contrary to what Mr. Callahan suggests in his opening paragraph, donors cannot deduct their contributions to political activities. Such a fundamental error in the opening paragraph calls into question everything that follows. In fact, Mr. Callahan compounds his errors by equating philanthropy and political giving, as evidenced by his second sentence in the sixth paragraph.

However, the Times yesterday chose to run only a minor correction relating to the letter’s third point, namely that the Koch brothers had not donated to the group Freedom Works. (Had the Times corrected the other two items the entire Callahan column would have been shown to be built on a false premise, which it was.)

A number of conservative blogs then started digging around to find out some information on Demos. I contacted the group and raised these questions:

I have checked your Web site and did not see a listing of donors. Did I miss it? If not, is there a reason you don’t list donors on your Web site?

Do you promise anonymity to any/all donors?

Can you provide a complete list of donors, or those donors to whom you have not promised anonymity?

Do you have any response to the issues raised in the letter to Andrew Rosenthal by Koch Industries’ general counsel?

I followed up but received no answer. (I’ll certainly report back if the group does respond.) But once again, the only thing transparent about these left-wing front groups is their organized attack on the Koch brothers. This one was particularly sloppy and assisted by an all-too-eager New York Times that tends to gobble up these anti-Koch stories with not much fact-checking.

There’s nothing wrong, I suppose, in not listing your donor. But then it takes some nerve to take on others whose giving is actually much more widely known.

My guess, however, is that this entire storyline is going to go down the memory hole. Why? Because the left is explicitly copying the third-party donor arrangements that the right used to its benefit in 2010. USA Today reports:

Democrats hoping to take back the U.S. House next year launched a new “super PAC” aimed at erasing a financial edge that outside groups gave to Republicans in the 2010 elections.

The House Majority PAC will be an independent expenditure-only committee, meaning it will raise funds and participate in congressional races without any coordination with candidates. By law, so-called “super PACs” (political action committees) can take unlimited donations but have to disclose their donors.

Likewise, Roll Call reports:

Rodell Mollineau, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been named president of American Bridge 21st Century, a new political action committee and research organization formed to help Democratic candidates compete with a host of similar conservative groups that emerged during the 2010 election cycle.

Mollineau spent the previous four years running the communications war room for the Senate Democratic Conference and played an integral role for Reid down the stretch of the Nevada Democrat’s successful re-election campaign.

American Bridge 21st Century is a recently launched “Democratic Super PAC” and accompanying 501(c)(4) that will attempt to elect Democrats to the House and Senate in 2012.

According to a press release issued by the group, Mollineau “will lead the overall efforts of the Super Pac and its companion 501(c)(4) foundation to build a permanent progressive counterweight to the outside Republican groups that took hold of the electoral process in 2010.”

Well, I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now the Soros attack squad will have to find another script to replace the “secret Koch money!” script, and I suppose the president won’t be attacking the Chamber of Commerce in this election cycle either.

By  |  09:20 AM ET, 04/15/2011

Categories:  law

 
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