Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Deus Ex Cash Machina

UPDATE: This is getting good. Read this.


So Michele Bachmann showed up on Hardball last week and let Chris Matthews steer her into a bad corner. Now, a week later, she's in the fight of her political life. That's the story. Do you sense that there's a lot more than meets the eye?


First, as far as Bachmann's comments go -- I'm not convinced that she meant to call Barack Obama anti-American, but there's no doubt that she did. So be it. Defining someone as un-American is hardly new -- Nancy Pelosi described Republicans as unpatriotic less than a month ago. I'm guessing that if someone is unpatriotic, they're anti-American, too; maybe there's a distinction that one of the resident portside Bertrand Russells around here can make for us, but it's most likely a distinction without a difference. As far as I can tell, Nancy Pelosi hasn't suffered too much for making that statement.


Bachmann is a different matter, apparently. Chris Matthews's show is seen by far less than 1% of Americans, so it's passing strange that Bachmann's appearance on such a small platform would lead to nearly a million dollars coming into the campaign of her opponent in less than two days, especially since her comments didn't really reach that many people in her district over the weekend. One might conclude that Matthews's audience is amazingly well-heeled and disposed to providing large sums of money to anyone who speaks ill of Obama. That might be the answer. But I wonder about that.


The recent flow of money to Elwyn Tinklenberg's campaign was nearly entirely over the Internet. This is where Barack Obama's seemingly endless supply of money comes from. Now I have it on good authority that there's money to be made on the Internet -- you could ask this guy whether it's true or not. But Ty Coughlin has nothing on Barack Obama. The very mention of Obama's name seems to cause money to fall from the sky, either to build a fabulous campaign on The One's behalf, or to bury his opponents.


Where does the money come from? Well, we are told that it mostly comes from small contributions, mostly concerned people who give $50, or $100, or maybe $200 if they're feeling flush. But it's hard to tell for sure, since the Obama campaign hasn't been willing to disclose much about its small donor base. What we have learned suggests that money might be coming from places it shouldn't, like overseas. These financial practices have raised plenty of eyebrows, even in liberal enclaves like Seattle. And what we are told is that these famous small donors are the ones ponying up for the cash infusion that Tinklenberg is getting. If these small donors are really the silent sufferers from the forgotten middle class who have been tossed to the curb by Chimpy McBushitlerburton and his sidekick Evil Dick, I do have to wonder -- where are they getting the money to send to E-Tink? I thought they were deciding between paying their mortgages or filling their vehicles with gasoline, and that they were living paycheck to paycheck. That's what you hear, no? So where do they come up with the Jackson or the Benjamin for an obscure congressional candidate in Minnesota?


One thing has been pretty clear -- there's a lot of funny money flowing into Democratic coffers in this election cycle. Is it possible that E-Tink has gotten some? I hope it's not anti-American of me to wonder about that. And if you think it doesn't matter, remember what P. J. O'Rourke said -- when buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first thing bought and sold are the legislators. So here's my question -- who's buying Elwyn Tinklenberg?


Cross-posted at True North

22 comments:

Hammerswing75 said...

I happened to be watching that segment and saw the disaster as it started to unfold. What Bachmann should have said is, "Look Matthews, I know you're trying to badger me into saying that Obama's un-patriotic so that you can cry foul. Here's what I've got to say. His friend Bill Ayers was and is un-patriotic. Obama's just a fool for hanging around with him."

Anonymous said...

Mark,
You can't be serious! Those mysterious contributions you are so suspicious of are from "normal" people. You know, the kind that make less than $250,000 a year, and who are completely disgusted with the turn the country has taken over the last eight years. The kind of people who only own one house, and are rather concerned with keeping it. It seems that the GOP is ticked off that someone would have the unmitigated audacity to raise more money from than they can. And to make it worse, the money is flowing into Obama's coffers from the Hoi Polloi.
GOP desperation is starting to show as you guys lurch from one failed political tactic to the next, and keep coming up empty. I have contributed several times over the course of the last year, in the twenty-five dollar to fifty dollar category, and I've usually donated during a matching fund drive, and have subsequently had my matching fund matched to a bona fide email address. Also, every single time have donated, I have had to fill out an easily verifiable form in order to contribute, that not only takes my promise but requires a credit card account with a U.S. address that they cross check with the post office for authenticity.
I can also attest to the fact that my cousin, who is an American citizen living in London, has had two $250 contributions sent back to her by the Obama camp because of her foreign address and checking account.

This, and the Acorn stuff, is just another pathetic and desperate smear. The Republicans have nothing left to do but hope to demoralize the populace so they won't vote. Voter suppression is the name of the game, and the GOP is quite good at it, but it isn't working as well as it used to. What a winning strategy: Suppress the vote, suppress small contributions from first time donors, millions of "little guys" (like JTP) who are inspired by Obama. Is this what you guys have left? Trying to scare people who gave $20 and got a t-shirt?

Regarding Pelosi, I am not sure what you are talking about. You gotta link? But if you want to know why $1M quickly flowed to Bachmann's opponent, you might want to take a closer look at Bachmann. Quick, what's the most dangerous place on Capitol Hill? Ans. Anywhere between Michelle Bachmann and a camera. She might just be the biggest grandstander in Congress. This woman is on TV more than Larry King. Not an insignificant accomplishment for a Freshman Congresswoman in the minority. She accomplishes this by saying crazy things and doing everything she can to call attention to herself. This time, it backfired on her, and you guys are gonna' start screaming victim? I thought it was supposed to be Liberals who were always crying victim.

The more negative the GOP tactics are, the more firm the Obama/Democratic support becomes. And Republicans objecting to millions of NEW voters participating in a lowercase d democratic process by putting their small amounts of money where their mouth is will only fuel Democratic determination.

You are going to have to deal with the fact that Obama's is a truly well-organized campaign that does its homework. It also sounds like the FEC has been doing its job, flagging any remaining questionable items as well. In campaigns this large, there are going to be some irregularities, but those happen on both sides of the aisle. Do I need to remind you that McCain has already had to return foreign campaign contributions? Or that he violated the spirit of his own campaign finance law, and quite possibly, the law, when he used a maneuver to secure a loan for his campaign last year. The overwhelming scale of donations to Obama and select Democrats in Congress reflects the reality on the ground -- American voters, supporters, and volunteers are doing everything they can to support this campaign.

Regards,
Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

The link for Pelosi is provided. I wrote about this a month ago, too.

As for your assertion that "Obama's is a truly well-organized campaign that does its homework," I'd encourage you to read the link I'm adding to this post in about 10 minutes. Turns out that the Obama campaign isn't especially scrupulous about where it gets its money - it doesn't even match up names on credit cards with donors, as several people named "John Galt" are proving.

I ain't the one who's desperate, good sir.

Hammerswing75 said...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling attention to a Fraud-in-Progress. Anecdotal evidence that says you contributed according to the rules only proves that you did things the right way. I'm sure you are right that there are many folks who are fed up with the current government and are giving donations to Obama. The fact that such legitimate contributions are being cast into doubt by this potential fraud should be reason for anger. Similarly there should be a great deal of anger over ACORN shenanigans because they are disenfranchising all of us with each fake ballot they cast. The last thing I want is another 4-8 years of people whining about a stolen election, which is why we should insist on high standards for political donations and voter registration from the get-go.

Mark Heuring said...

Well said, Ben.

So Rich, how do you feel about Obama's standards for collecting credit card donations? Is that okay with you?

Mike said...

Is it me or do we think credit card donations are ok? I for one am not an advocate. Sending the wrong message to people out there.

It's nice to see a blog with factual links to back up the arguements....

Right Hook said...

Since Obama's real middle name is off limits maybe he should change it to "Maytag" as his money laundering operation puts the Clinton's to shame.

nukeitfromorbit said...

Thanks Mark - I had almost forgotten how funny Republican conspiracy theories are when you guys don't have the power to do anything about them. Oh my this is going to be fun. Kind of like the comedy episodes they used to do sometimes on the X-Files.

Mark Heuring said...

Glad you're enjoying, NIFO. I'm guessing that I just might enjoy 2009 more than you do. Especially if your guy wins.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
I still haven't seen the article about Galt. I did see your link on an article out of Seattle. It said investigators found $40,000 worth of questionable contributions. In other words less than 0.0001 of the 450 Million that has been contributed.
That sounds like a pretty good stat to me. The Obama campaign did process over 5 million dollars worth of contributions every day last month, the majority of which were small bore (under $200). Do you really think that this is such a horrible ratio?

Regarding the ACORN issue, the reason I am calling that a 'red herring' is the same reason Charlie Crist is. Voter-registration fraud is relatively easy, vote fraud is far more difficult. Do you really think Mickey Mouse is going to show up at a Kissimee polling station in two weeks? Of course not. But you would never know that from mudslinging brought about through misinformation and disinformation on the part of the McCain/Palin campaign and the RNC.
All a perpetrator of registration fraud needs to do is make up a name and address and sign a sheet. But someone committing voter fraud needs to evade multiple layers of computer-system and human identity checks.
Evidence I have seen indicates that most bad registration forms were flagged by Acorn and, as is required by law, passed on to election officials. The only fraud that is taking place is on Acorn, by unethical canvassers or citizens who themselves fill out fictitious voter cards. ACORN has apparently employed some canvassers who are sitting at home watching Springer and making up names to turn in. Lastly, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that members of the party of Rove and Atwater were purposely filling out fake registrations to gin up support for this charade, but that is just a hunch of mine.

Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Lastly, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that members of the party of Rove and Atwater were purposely filling out fake registrations to gin up support for this charade, but that is just a hunch of mine.

And NIFO accuses me of fomenting conspiracy theories! That's hilarious! Tell me, good sir, how would a Rove plant submit stuff through ACORN? As far as the Galt piece, it's right at the top of the article under "Update." And you can always refer to the piece I just posted a few minutes ago. There's going to be more coming on this. Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
the Galt article says Republicans are purposely sending in fraudulent campaign contributions as Galt for the purpose of ginning up support for their contention that Obama has lax compliance practices (but I am sure they would never do that with voter registration forms), and then the article mentions that 2 million dollars worth of campaign contributions were returned from last month. So it sounds to me like Obama's vetting is done on the back end, and McCain's is done on the front end. This would explain why my cousin's contributions were returned to her a few weeks after she made them. Evidence of two different vetting methodologies, but you haven't shown me evidence of a single illegal act.

Rich

Gino said...

i wouldnt be surprised if karl rove was actually behind the obama campaign.
he's feeding false strategy to the GOP, just like he fed those false emails and national guard reports to dan rather.

when obama takes the oath in january, you better believe it'll be the evil karl rove pulling his strings from behind the curtain.

that man knows no limits, i tell ya. that coniver will own us all.

Anonymous said...

BTW,
the only real story of voter fraud so far in this election cycle is by Republicans in Cali:
http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10762949?source=most_emailed

Rich

Hammerswing75 said...

Just a thought. Say McCain wins this. What do you want to bet that there is tons of talk in the media about stealing the election somehow? We just might get the chance to see.

Mark Heuring said...

but you haven't shown me evidence of a single illegal act.

What do I look like, Patrick Fitzgerald?

Read the Ruffini article that I posted. Tell me how you vet what he's describing, good sir.

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

You say:

So it sounds to me like Obama's vetting is done on the back end, and McCain's is done on the front end.

That's a pretty convenient reading of a pretty convenient practice. Let's stipulate that all the funny money is returned, just for the sake of argument, even though I doubt that will be the case. The Obama campaign still has control of the money until it's returned and the numbers show up in the news as "Obama fundraising sets another record: Eleventy Bajillion on Oct. 7 alone" or somesuch. And if money comes in from fraudulent accounts or overseas cards (both of which appear to be happening), how the hell do you return it? You know the answer - you don't.

Let's have a moment of honesty here -- if your candidate were down in the polls and if McCain was doing what Obama is doing, would you not be shouting it from the housetops?

If I set the rules, what would happen is this -- I'd let Soros or whoever give as much money as they want, with the stipulation that there is immediate and full transparency on the internet. We don't have that with the Obama campaign right now -- the small donor list is not public. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons for that, but when you combine that reality with the lax standards that Obama has on "the front end," to use your terminology, it certainly raises suspicions. The same question I asked about Tinklenberg in the post applies doubly or triply to Obama -- who is buying him? Maybe it is you and like-minded individuals. But you are not alone.

Mark Heuring said...

Rich, one more thing:

Check this one out:

http://www.nbc4i.com/midwest/cmh/news.apx.-content-articles-CMH-2008-10-23-0028.html

Anonymous said...

Mark,
I have been playing devil's advocate since the beginning of this thread, but I honestly do see your point. I admit that, yes, if my candidate was down 6 to 10 points down in the polls, and his opponent was playing fast and loose with the rules, I'd be complaining too. I know how that feels because that is where I have been in the previous two election cycles. And when McCain pulled the public financing shuffle to secure a loan to keep his campaign going last year, I complained to anyone who would listen (not many would).
Here's the problem: You and I both have Libertarian leanings. I was against McCain-Feingold, and I know you were too. I believe we should take limits off of the amounts individuals can give, we should disallow all corporate contributions, and let the people decide who they want to give money to. If a candidate or political party can't inspire folks to contribute to their cause, then it probably isn't a very good one.
Instead of doing that, we live with this constantly changing hodge podge of rules that are amended in a reactionary manner every two years based upon the last election cycles legal but deceptive practices. My best guess is that over the next two years, at least three new rules will be introduced into campaign finance law. One will say that you can't sign a legal binding contract to opt into or out of public financing of your campaign based on the result of future primary election results. The second will demand transparency up front on all donations, and the third will require a system of checks and balances on web donations. Obama or McCain will co-sponsor the bill in the Senate, and President Obama or President McCain will have a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden, and a bunch of lawyers on K Street will start dissecting the new legislation that day, looking for a loophole that will give their candidate an edge in the next election.

So far in this election cycle, both major candidates have skirted the election laws to their advantage. If either one of them has done anything illegal, then they should be penalized for it, but I doubt that will happen. In about three months, there will be follow up reports. Obama will announce that he returned over 10 million in contributions to folks he couldn't properly document, and will add that 5 million is being sent to Habitat for Humanity because he coyuldn't figure out who Ron Galt, Mike Hunt, Dick Hertz, Dirk Digler and Haywood J. Blowme are, or where they lived, so he was sending their contributions to charities. Is that fair? Probably not, but in the world of campaign finance law, it is what it is. In "All the King's Men", Robert Penn Warren's great novel about southern politics, Governor Willie Stark defines to the narrator what "The Law" is. I am paraphrasing, but Stark defines the law as a blanket that is always too short to cover you completely on a cold night, and he goes on to say that the world is controlled by those who understand the limited nature of the law. This notion seems to be so applicable to Campaign Finance that I don't think it can be avoided. I realize that I may be guilty of slipping into a form of epistemological solipsism here, but as I said, it is what it is.

I will also add that anyone caught committing actual voter fraud should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, regardless of their political persuasion.

Regards,
Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

I agree with a lot of what you wrote in your latest comment, but here is the problem with what's happening -- we've now had two consecutive administrations that have had a somewhat cavalier approach toward following the law. Much of Bush's problem in this sphere is related to the GWOT, while Clinton's was mostly related to self-preservation. In either event, the result wasn't pretty and it eroded respect for the law.

I remain sympathetic to libertarian principles, as you note. But my sympathies are predicated on the notion that laws be simple to understand and applied equally. The Willie Stark reference is particularly apt in the case of what happens in Washington - there never seems to be any real consequence for the bad behaviors that take place there. It is galling in the extreme to watch Christopher Dodd presiding over hearings that should have him in the dock. It's bizzaro world.

And that ties to the problem with what Obama is doing. He has predicated his entire campaign as being someone who brings Hope and Change. Well, it's hard to see how he's going to be able to bring either of those things when his campaign is so morally compromised. This has been one of my underlying concerns about the guy from the outset -- he's writing checks on an account without a balance. And a lot of people are voting for him based on the checks he's writing, both figuratively and literally. And when he can't cover the checks, there's going to be hell to pay. And our polity will get worse.

Is victory worth that much? It's hard for me to believe it is.

Anonymous said...

Mark,
that's a great logical fallacy, but you could have just asked me if I had stopped beating my wife.
I'll be voting for Obama, and I don't share your concerns regarding Obama's moral compass. You note that Dubya's administration has had a cavalier attitude toward the law, and I wo0uld agree. Any keen observer of U.S. politics, can tell you that this was in evidence long before the 2004 election. Since I know that you are, in fact, a very astute spectator of all things political, do you mind if I ask if you voted for Bush in 2004, knowing what you knew about him?

Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

If you don't share my concerns, all that means is that you don't. It doesn't mean you're objectively wrong. It could very well be that I am wrong. And if things turns out well, great. It would be better to be wrong. And I wouldn't take any great joy in being right. We both want the best for this country. We disagree on means and ends.

As for 2004 - based on what I knew then, voting for Bush was an easy choice. Based on what I know now, I'm very hard pressed to see how a John Kerry presidency would have been any better. But again, I might be wrong. We aren't really going to know for sure until we get some distance from the Bush era.