Almost two weeks ago, Lee Doren and I reported on the new website TheTeaPartyisOver.org and its funding by unions, through a front group calling itself the American Public Policy Committee. Fox News picks up where we left off in a report today that exposes even more shady union funding of the astroturf effort against the Tea Party grassroots movement:
A new Web site targeting the tea parties is a part of a complex network of money flowing from the mountainous coffers of the country’s biggest labor unions and trickling slowly into political slush funds for Democratic activists.
A seemingly grassroots organization that’s mounted an online campaign to counter the tea party movement is actually the front end of an elaborate scheme that funnels funds — including sizable labor union contributions — through the offices of a prominent Democratic party lawyer. …
But a close look reveals the APPC’s place in a complex network of money flowing from the mountainous coffers of the country’s biggest labor unions into political slush funds for Democratic activists.
Here’s how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men — Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).
Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money — tens of millions of dollars — gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean — for the most part.
The system helps hide the true sources of funding, giving the appearance of locally bred opposition in states from Oklahoma to New Jersey, or in the case of the Tea Party Web site, in Illinois.
Yes, this is entirely legal. In fact, it’s more the norm in the post-McCain-Feingold era, as the money continues to flow but gets buried more deeply than ever. This is why I entitled my original post “Another good reason to transparency rather than McCain-Feingold for reform.” Since unions and corporations could not pay for political advertising until Citizens United v FEC struck down those restrictions, they simply started sinking money into front groups they could control to do it for them. McCain-Feingold did nothing but create an industry of money laundering which brought opacity rather than transparency to politics.
Be sure to read through the entire report. Democratic Party and union activists apparently intend to use this website to hunt down Tea Party backers and political candidates who appeal to the grassroots. Of course, now that unions can operate in the open, they may choose to hammer these candidates more directly than with an obscure website whose impact will be seen as iffy at best, at least as compared to open opposition from unions. It’s good to know the players involved in this effort, as they will certainly be working at many levels to blunt the impact of the Tea Party on the midterm elections.