The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Campaign finance filing a labyrinth

A piece in the current Texas Observer looks at a case of alleged corporate contribution laundering that doesn't involve TRMPAC.

The basic rule in Texas is that corporate contributions cannot be used for political campaigns except to pay for overhead; and not even for overhead in the last 60 days of the campaign.

The Republican Party of Texas raised $5 million in corporate contributions back in 2002 - and it's not clear that its use of the money stayed within the law.

The piece says that
For three months, the Observer combed through thousands of pages of state and federal filings in an effort to decode how the Republican Party of Texas spent its corporate money in 2002. Those filings don’t reveal much, however. Records at the Texas Ethics Commission, the flaccid state agency that nominally oversees campaign spending, show only a long list of corporate money transfers between various Republican Party of Texas accounts.

The RPT switched funds supposedly representing unspent corporate contributions to the national party before the 60 day quarantine period started.

Once the money reached one of the federal’s impossible to track it any further. The money simply disappears into a pool of cash from various other sources.

The piece goes on:
The complexity of the federal disclosure forms rivals anything the Internal Revenue Service has to offer. For anyone who hasn’t spent years researching campaign finance law, the FEC provides handy online guidebooks that read like cryptic VCR manuals.

It's pretty clear that the intention is to make as difficult as possible the task of citizens and regulators trying to check that campaign finance laws have been complied with - thereby making questionable or illegal operations difficult to track. (Well, duh...)

But who is responsible? The GOP have only had control of both Federal elected branches since 2001, and both branches in Texas since 2003.

One might therefore reasonably infer that most of the decisions, legislative, regulatory and administrative, which have given rise to the current systems of campaign finance filing took place when Democrats were in charge of at least one legislative house or or the executive branch; and that the misfeasance the obscurity of these systems was intended to shield was Democratic at least as much as Republican.

A further indication why Dem outrage at Tom DeLay's contribution shenanigans rings just a tad hollow.

Both in Austin and in Washington, the Dems have had enough time with control to have put in place a transparent system. Saint Jimmy Carter, for instance, had four whole years.

Or before him, it would have been - Lyndon Johnson.

(Now who's taking the piss. Ed.)

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