Thursday, September 10, 2009

Constantine's Tangled Web: How Many Campaign Violations Can You Find?

Angie Voigt did the digging where the paid media just scratched the surface and found apparently illegal ties to Dow Constantine's campaign. Red County:
... Leafing through campaign finance documents available to the public from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), Seattle Times Reporter, Keith Ervin, reported in an August 5th story that an independent, "non-partisan" political action committee (PAC) calling itself "Citizens to Uphold the Constitution," had an interesting link to the Dow Constantine campaign: they share the same treasurer, Jason Bennett. Surprisingly, that was the end of Ervin's interest in the matter. According to their expenditures report filed to the PDC, Citizens to Uphold the Constitution, paid $11,300.25 to Washington, D.C.-based vendor, "The Clinton Group," to perform robocalls attacking Susan Hutchison. The sponsor of the group who purchased the vendor services is named as Jason Bennett, who, according to the Seattle Times article, is also Dow Constantine's treasurer. The situation appears to be a violation of RCW 42.17.020 and WAC 390-05-210. The RCW, in section 28, defines independent expenditure, which forbids collaboration between a candidate (the candidate's campaign staff or any agent of that campaign) and a group or person purchasing advertising for that candidate or against the candidate's opponent. The link between Constantine's treasurer, Jason Bennett, and this Political Action Committee looks sordid enough, but there's even more. Jason Bennett is a veteran political consultant and Olympia insider who has helped win democratic majorities in the state legislature and worked for Senator Maria Cantwell's staff before opening his own political consulting firm, Argo Strategies, in Seattle. He is a sophisticated player whose firm advertises its ability to get progressive democrats elected. Good for him. Being that he is integral to the political scene, there should be no question that he knows the laws. In fact, his website claims, "Argo Strategies is a political consulting firm specializing in treasury and compliance work...let us navigate the campaign waters, you go and win!" So, just to review: it is illegal for a candidate's campaign to coordinate with independent groups who finance attack ads against opponents or who fund campaign activities in support of said candidate.
She has more. And she follows it up with a short article The Tangled Web Continues... Hat tip to commenter "Zon."

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