The Swarm

Mix it up with The Bee's editorial board.

March 31, 2010
Republican Tom Campbell really irritates some Republicans

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By attacking Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell, the National Organization for Marriage is getting what it might see as a twofer.

The conservative nonprofit corporation based in New Jersey has assumed a leading role in the national attack on same-sex marriage, airing an ad that challenges Campbell over his support of the right of all adults to marry, as we note in today's Bee.

The National Organization for Marriage also is a plaintiff in lawsuits in California and elsewhere challenging campaign finance laws.

In his days in Congress and after, Campbell was a prominent backer of campaign finance restrictions, including the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which sought to restrict on campaign spending--and has been the focus of legal challenges primarily by conservatives.

Under federal law, donors who fund politically active nonprofit corporations such as National Organization for Marriage can maintain their anonymity.

"They're like drive-by shootings by people who don't have the guts to put their mouth where there money is," Campbell's campaign manager, Ray McNally, said of ads aired by such groups. "There's a reason they want to stay hidden, because they're usually doing somebody else's dirty work, and it often has nothing to do with the issue that's being exploited."

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission in January opened the way for unlimited corporate donations to independent campaign operations. The ruling also permits more direct involvement in electoral politics by groups such National Organization for Marriage.

In California, National Organization for Marriage raised $1.8 million to promote Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that repealed the California Supreme Court decision that permitted same-sex marriage. Under California law, it was required to disclose its donors. It raised $1.6 million to back a similar measure, Question 1, in Maine last year.

It has filed a suit pending in federal court in Sacramento to invalidate requirements that it disclose donors under state law. The group also is suing in Maine over a demand that it disclose donors.

In each case, its attorney is James Bopp, Jr., of Terra Haute, Indiana.

The mastermind of challenges across the nation against campaign finance restrictions, Bopp is vice chairman of Republican National Committee, and represents the Right to Life Committee, Focus on the Family, Club for Growth, and other conservative groups.

Bopp told The Swarm that he has 28 cases pending in various courts, including one that will be argued in the U.S. Supreme Court in April. He recently won a federal court ruling in San Diego tossing out aspects of that city's campaign finance law. Here's a recent piece in the Washington Post about him.

"No one should have to contact a lawyer to find out whether it is OK to talk about the government or politicians, or what they're doing to us or for us," Bopp said, explaining the reason for challenging campaign finance laws.

Bopp said that while there is "justification" for identifying large donors to some ballot measure campaigns, broad disclosure requirements can restrict free speech because it can subject contributors to harassment. Others say big donors enter the political fray willingly.

"Even if this [California] law is constitutional," Bopp said, "NOM is entitled to an exemption from disclosure of all contributors because of harassment and how they were victimized by homosexual advocates."

Campbell takes a different view. There are times when hiding donors' identity is reasonable. Sixty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted the NAACP to shield its donors. But back then, there were church bombings, lynchings and shootings. Harassment in the Proposition 8 campaign hardly rose to that level.

"Disclosure is hugely valuable in public life," Campbell said. 

March 20, 2010
Was Ronald Reagan talking about ObamaCare?

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In the health care debate, almost everything new seems a little old.

Ronald Reagan had a way with words, even back when he was a spokesman working for the American Medical Association. The AMA was adamantly opposed to legislation that ultimately won approval in 1965 and created a little program we call MediCare.

Some of the warnings the actor-turned-spokesman-turned-governor-turned-president issued are eerily similar to what we're hearing now. Consider this from a 1961 talk.

"One of the traditional methods of imposing 'statism' or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It is very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it."

Fast forward to 2003.

President George W. Bush, fully embracing Medicare as he ran for reelection, vastly expanded the program by pushing through greater prescription drug coverage for older Americans.

To get the bill through, he and his allies had to play some serious politics, make some deal and even make a few threats.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Then Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican, maybe went a little far. The House Ethics Committee reprimanded him for promising to support the election of a Michigan Republican's son in exchange for a vote on the bill.

President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi certainly are pushing hard for votes. But as far as we've heard, they haven't outright offered anything that might be worthy of a reprimand by the House Ethics Committee.

We at The Swarm realize this is a big leap, but say Democrats overcome all Republican threats and manage to approve the health care legislation, and country doesn't turn socialist. 

Imagine that we don't wake up in our sunset years telling "our children's children what it once was like in American when men were free," as Spokesman Reagan feared. Could it be that maybe some Republicans will find some part of this health care program worth supporting?

Nah. Can't imagine.

March 12, 2010
Darius Anderson helped Republican heavy win pension money

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Markstone Capital, an investment house whose founder pleaded guilty in an ongoing pension fund scandal, hired a well-connected Sacramento placement agent to help win a $25 million investment from the California Public Employee Retirement System, newly disclosed documents show.

In disclosures released by CalPERS, Markstone acknowledged hiring Sacramento lobbyist Darius Anderson, and paying him $250,000 after he helped Markstone secure a CalPERS' commitment to invest $25 million with Markstone in 2005.

Markstone previously won a $25 million investment without using a placement agent, as described in this article.

Republican heavyweight Elliott Broidy of Los Angeles founded Markstone, a firm that specializes in investing in Israel.

Broidy stepped down as Markstone chairman after pleading guilty to bribery charges as part of New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo's investigation into pension funds and misuse of placement agents.

Anderson's name has surfaced in connection with investigations into pension funds but he has been accused of no wrongdoing.

CalPERS had announced earlier this year that placement agents received at least $125 million for winning business with the pension fund, as The Bee's Dale Kasler wrote in this article in January.

But 28 firms failed to comply with CalPERS' request to disclose whether they had hired placement agents. Markstone was among the laggards.

The Bee previously noted in editorials here and here that Markstone neglected to comply with CalPERS' requests that it voluntarily disclose whether or not it had hired placement agents. It since did file papers disclosing its arrangement with Anderson, and an explanation of it.

Broidy long was a prominent figure in Republican politics, serving as finance chair for the Republican National Committee during the 2008 presidential election, and also raising money for President George W. Bush.

Broidy also was generous with California politicians, particularly those who held sway over pension fund decisions, donating $436,000 to state politicians since the start of the decade.

Anderson, by contrast, long has been a significant Democratic fund-raiser, serving as finance chairman for Gov. Gray Davis 1998 election.

Anderson operates Platinum Advisors, one of Sacramento's top lobby firms. With $16.5 million in revenue since 2000, Platinum placed 14th among all Sacramento lobby firms.

In addition to his work as a lobbyist, Anderson done work as a placement agent, helping firms such as Markstone win pension fund business. Here is an article related to Anderson and pension funds.



About The Swarm

The Swarm is written by members of The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. They meet daily and are separate from the newsroom. Views included here are those of individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of a majority of the board or the positions expressed in The Bee's editorials.

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