As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Swiftboat Inc.

Here's something that will slip through the cracks right up until a few years from now when all these attack ads are coming out of the woodwork and we don't understand why?

A political consulting firm run by two battle-hardened Republican operatives has developed a plan to set up private companies to run attack ads against candidates.

Private companies would be free of many of the contribution limits and reporting requirements that campaign committees must abide by.

The Black Rock Group, run by Carl Forti and Michael Dubke in Alexandria, is seeking the approval of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for key aspects of its plan.

“BRG intends to approach multiple individuals and suggest that each individual establish a limited liability company … for the sole purpose of sponsoring independent expenditures that expressly advocate the election or defeat of one or more federal candidates,” wrote Black Rock's attorney, William J. McGinley of Patton Boggs, in a May 27 letter to the FEC.

Carl Forti blows a lot of smoke, but I think they've figured out a key loophole here. If private companies can be set up for the sole purpose of running attack ads, really all bets are off from the standpoint of transparency and disclosure. Right now a 527 group needs to disclose their membership and donors. A private company, not so much.

They never stop...

The main point of the letter is to confirm that Black Rock and the companies can work together and share information without following the rules for political committees.

In an advisory opinion issued in April, the FEC determined that such limited liability companies are treated the same as individuals under campaign finance law. Limited liability companies shield the people involved from some lawsuits.

They also wouldn't be seeking tax-exempt status under section 501(c)4 of the tax code, further reducing the documentation they must make available to the public.

Forti is a former communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee and an executive at the conservative issue advocacy group Freedom's Watch. He also worked on Mitt Romney's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Dubke is the former president of Americans for Job Security, a conservative, business-oriented advocacy group founded to counter the AFL-CIO.

Freedom's Watch and Americans for Job Security were both criticized by Democrats as front groups for rich donors created to avoid campaign finance restrictions.

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