Americans for Job Security Anti-Obama ad
After Citizens United, attention has been paid to the sheer amount of money the right wing poured into elections and how that money has influenced public opinion, debate, and outcomes. But for the most part, attention has been placed on the so-called SuperPACs and their participation. While American Crossroads and others were certainly big players on the national landscape, little attention has been paid to how they operate on a state by state basis, and how they are used to launder money across state lines in order to subvert even the mildest disclosure requirements. In this post and ones to follow, I'll be putting the spotlight on these organizations and how they operate together to subvert democracy.
In California, Governor Jerry Brown put a measure on the November 2012 ballot to raise income and sales taxes in order to continue funding California schools and universities (Prop 30). Unlike most tax measures, Californians were in support of raising taxes in order to save our struggling school system. Another ballot measure would have stripped unions in California of their ability to participate in political speech while giving large corporations unlimited ability to spend on elections (Prop 32). Public opinion was mixed on that proposition.
In October, 2012, $11 million came into the state to oppose Prop 30 and support Prop 32. The organization which received and spent the money was called Americans for Responsible Leadership, a group organized in Arizona in 2011. California authorities filed a lawsuit to force Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL) to reveal their donors. Ultimately, they won the right to discover who gave ARL the funds, but they didn't discover the people behind the money.
When ARL was forced to disclose, they revealed that the money had come from an organization in Phoenix called the Center to Protect Patients Rights. When the Center to Protect Patients Rights was asked for the source of the funds, they pointed to Americans for Job Security (AJS). (application/pdf - 111.5 KB)
In summary, the money trail looked like this:
Mystery donors give $11 million --> Americans for Job Security --> Center for Patients Rights --> Americans for Responsible Leadership --> Ad buys in California opposing Prop 30, supporting Prop 32
Americans for Job Security: Conduit for dark money
Americans for Job Security has been on the landscape since 1997. According to their IRS filings, they are a trade association, exempt from taxes under 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code, established by business owners to convey a "pro-paycheck message." Established by Bush political director David Carney, its chief officer through 2008 was Michael Dubke. Michael Dubke is a founding partner in two critical Republican operations: Crossroads Media and the BlackRock Group. Crossroads Media is the primary media buyer for the Karl Rove organizations, Crossroads GPS and American Crossroads. The BlackRock group is the architect of the SwiftBoat Network structure, where supposedly a third party coordinates messaging between unrelated nonprofit groups. AJS is currently run by a 27-year old student at Johns Hopkins University by the name of Stephen DeMaura, whose primary claim to fame prior to this was creating an anti-Hillary Clinton Facebook page in 2008 and serving as director of the New Hampshire Republican Party.
Other AJS directors include Art Hackney, partner in an Alaska-based Republican public relations firm, and Nicholas Terzulli, a New York attorney who currently serves as Nassau County's Director of Business Development.
Although AJS' mailing address goes to a UPS store in Alexandria, Virginia, the New York Times uncovered the fact that DeMaura works out of the same offices where Crossroads Media and the BlackRock Group operate. DeMaura insisted that there was a firewall between the organizations, while also admitting that he works closely with them on a day to day basis.
AJS Spending in 2010-2012 cycle
- The $11 million drop into California notwithstanding, AJS also dropped $15 million into the national elections. All of their media buys went through Crossroads Media, and nearly all of the funds were spent in opposition to Barack Obama.
- In Arizona, Americans for Responsible Leadership dropped $1.1 million to oppose an open primary system in Arizona and an increase in their sales taxes. Because of differences in state campaign finance laws, it appears that ARL will not be compelled to disclose their donors. But based upon similarities, it's not a far leap to assume the money flow was similar to the one in California.
- In late 2011, AJS ran anti-union ads in New Hampshire tying to the Republican primary debate held there.
- AJS dropped $689,000 in Wisconsin to oppose Eric Hovde, the less conservative candidate running for the open Senate seat Tammy Baldwin eventually won.
By the time 2014 rolls around and midterms are on the landscape, it's my hope that these organizations and the people running them are disgraced enough that they get no traction for the midterms. It's not enough to sit back and claim victory over dark money in 2012 when state legislatures are dominated by Republicans bought with dark money. If you think 2010 was ugly, imagine what 2014 will be like with the infrastructure fully developed. We may not be able to fight such structures with money, but we certainly can shine light on them and fully expose the right wing funding machine for what it is.
File this post in your bookmarks for dark money conduit and Karl Rove machine. It belongs in both places.
Author's Note: This is Part I of a multi-part series to "Name and Shame" those who subvert our political system with massive amounts of money.