Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Kossack on Ko$ola

Truly sad note from Jesse Kornbluth:
My wife and I are huge partisans of the Kos idea: a community of fact-checkers and truth-seekers committed to the proposition that, despite the intransigence of the Democratic National Committee, we can identify progressive candidates and help them get elected. During the last Senatorial campaigns, Karen was so moved by Kos posts about liberal candidates in Oklahoma and Alaska that she wrote check after check.
OMG! The mind reels.

Let me get a cup of coffee and think about it, and I'll try to come up with more comments. ....

OK, I'm back, and have now done some research.

Mr. Kornbluth, you've got a problem. I just went to Political Moneyline and searched FEC records for 2002-2006 contributions by Karen Collins, which returned records of 13 contributions, 6 of which were by a liberal Democrat, Karen L. Collins of Wesleyan University. But according to her Wesleyan bio, Professor Collins' husband is fellow math professor Mark Hovey.

Then I thought, maybe she used her married name, so I did a 2002-2006 search for Kornbluth, and returned three FEC records -- first names Ira, Peter and Rick.

In other words, while Jesse Kornbluth says his wife "wrote check after check" for Senate candidates in Oklahoma and Alaska, FEC records appear to show no contributions at all by his wife!

This is getting WEIRD ....

I have e-mailed Mr. Kornbluth to call his attention to this apparent contradiction. There is almost certainly some innocent explanation for this, e.g., the checks were written to 527 groups or PACs, or at any rate, something besides "hard money" accounts. Surely, you can't run a "Nigerian scam" past the FEC.

* * * * *
UPDATE: If anybody has the resources to research small donors to PACs or 527s, please do so. Apparently, Mr. Kornbluth's wife isn't one of the big 527 players, since she doesn't show up in the top individual donors for 2004 listed by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

However, while researching this, I did notice something interesting that may not be irrelevant. The CRP has charts showing how 527s spend their money. The 2004 chart shows 12% spent for administrative costs, whereas the 2006 chart shows 21% spent for administrative costs. That's a 75% increase in administrative costs.

Very little 527 money ends up as contributions to candidates -- less than 1% in 2004, less than 5% for 2006 (so far). This raises interesting questions about 527s: If a 527 solicits a potential contributor based on an appeal like, "Help us elect Candidate X who shares our position on [insert issue]," how does the contributor know that his money will be spent wisely or effectively?

Kornbluth's HuffPo column -- written in reaction to the Newseek profile of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga -- suggests that Kornbluth's wife thought she was "writing check after check" to support liberal Democratic Senate candidates in Alaska and Oklahoma. But an initial search indicates that, whatever she was writing checks for, it wasn't direct "hard-money" contributions to federal candidates' campaign committees. This doesn't mean that anything unethical or illegal has transpired. But it does create some intriguing questions about what's going on with these DailyKos-driven campaigns.

If a post on DailyKos says, "Click here to help support grassroots activist Martha Moonbat, who's fighting against Congressman Chickenhawk (R-Wing) in the 47th District," and the contribution of a Kossack via such a click-through does not produce a "hard money" contribution -- where is that money going? And why? From the candidates' perspective, hard money is what it's all about. So if DailyKos is trying to direct small donors to "progressive" Democrats, why would they direct these contributions to anything but the hard-money accounts?

Curiouser and curiouser ...

3 a.m. UPDATE

Duh! I just read the fine print:

"The Federal Election Commission records all receipts from individuals who contribute over $200."
So as long as you give no more than $199.99 to any single candidate, I suppose ....

Emily Latilla: Never Mind!

You know, if it weren't for all this "Townhouse" secrecy and stuff, maybe folks wouldn't be thinking the Kos Gang was shady ...