Makes Luigi’s $13,000 look insignificant

The media were all agog last week, because shock horror someone got paid to work on a campaign.

And the truly horrifying amounts…just $13,000. More fuss was made of that payment to Luigi Wewege than the hundreds of thousands shovelled through Len Brown’s secret trust.

Now look at the US and wonder at the stupidity of our media. A recently settled campaign finance case in California shows you just a snippet of the amount of cash trucking around for political campaigning.

The just-settled California case offers an example of both gambits, along with a textbook case of the new dark-money shuffle. The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission traced $29 million raised to run ads about state ballot measures through a daisy chain of 501(c)4 tax-exempt groups, which are not required to identify donors—hence the “dark money.” The lynchpin for this maneuver was the Center to Protect Patients Rights (CPPR), run by a former Capitol Hill staffer named Sean Noble. Operating out of a post-office box in Arizona, CPPR’s sole function is to accept grants, then turn around and make grants for a network of conservative nonprofits.  

In the California case, $29 million from in-state donors who wanted to remain anonymous was steered to the Virginia-based Americans for Job Security, which passed $24.5 million to CPPR. Noble then made two grants: $18 million to Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL), which passed on $11 million to the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC) in California; and $7 million to American Future Fund, which gave $4 million to the California Future Fund.

California officials called this “money laundering” and levied the state’s largest-ever campaign fine—$1 million—against CPPR and ARL. They also demanded that SBAC and California Future Fund pay $15 million to the state treasury, although the latter group has already closed up shop. The settlement did not dispute the claim that these violations were “inadvertent.” Nevertheless, Ann Ravel, the outgoing head of the commission, warned, “This is a nationwide issue. These groups exploit loopholes in the law to undermine the clear purpose of the law.”

They also take a nice cut for themselves. According to depositions, the fundraisers and the groups that transferred the funds split a 15-percent commission on the $29 million three ways. Overall, CPPR handled about $140 million in 2012, according to a tax return filed at the last possible moment in November 2013. Noble, its unsalaried president, steered nearly $24 million to his own private consulting firms, on top of the $10 million he paid his firms in 2011.

I have no problem with money in politics. The Act party and Colin Craig are proof positive that money can’t buy you results.

But I do think that we should remove the influence of corporates and unions from elections.

Three simple law changes would be required.

1. Only natural persons should be able to belong to political parties, there should be no affiliate status allowed

2. Only natural persons should be able to donate to political parties, no donations from corporates or unions

3. Require immediate notification of donations in excess of $1000

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.