March 16, 2015

I like it when Heather gives me tips on what they're gabbling about over on the Fox 'News' Channel on weekends, because those little gabblefests are their trial balloons for the week's themes.

This little gem of a weep session features Kimberley Strassel and her gang of pundits had a big wet crying together over the Department of Justice's resolve to enforce egregious violations of campaign finance laws.

There's been one case successfully prosecuted so far. GOP operative Tyler Harber entered a guilty plea to not only illegally coordinating campaign expenditures, but also skimming off a lot of the money for his own enrichment.

This is hardly cause for sackcloth and ashes, but just listen to them whine.

"This is a scare tactic!"

"It's meant to put campaigns on alert!" Uhhhh, well, yes, if by that they mean letting campaigns know that campaign finance laws still exist and said campaign finance laws are enforceable.

Meanwhile, the chyron floats by with the word "coordination" in quotes, as if it's not really a thing.

Here's what Harber was doing. It should be noted that he certainly could have avoided prosecution simply by following the law. It also didn't help that he lied to the FBi, for sure. From the DOJ announcement:

According to the plea documents, Harber was the Campaign Manager and General Political Consultant for a candidate for Congress in the November 2012 general election. At the same time, Harber participated in the creation and operation of a PAC, which was legally allowed to raise and spend money in unlimited amounts from otherwise prohibited sources to influence federal elections so long as it did not coordinate expenditures with a federal campaign.

Harber admitted, among other things, that he made and directed coordinated expenditures by the PAC to influence the election with $325,000 of political advertising opposing a rival candidate. The coordination of expenditures made them illegal campaign contributions to the authorized committee of Harber’s candidate, and Harber admitted that he knew this coordination of expenditures was an unlawful means of contributing money to a campaign committee. He further admitted that he used an alias and other means to conceal his action from inquiries by an official of the same political party as Harber’s candidate.

Harber further admitted that he told multiple lies when interviewed by the FBI concerning his activities.

This entire segment is an on-air version of this WSJ op-ed. Not only is it ZOMG DOJ, it's also ZOMG, Richard Pilger at the DOJ is spearheading it, and he's Lois Lerner's BFF.

The FEC was designed to ensure that neither political party could capture the agency, and out of concern that Justice wasn’t the right place for the job. Minnesota Democrat Hubert Humphrey said at the time that “[t]he temptation to politicize the Department of Justice, which currently has jurisdiction over such matters, is or has been apparently too great to resist. Therefore, an independent body is necessary to properly execute the election laws in an impartial and nonpartisan manner.”

The head of Justice’s Election Crimes Branch, Richard Pilger, is a proponent of criminal coordination investigations at the Justice Department. Two attendees tell us that at a Practicing Law Institute seminar in September 2014 Mr. Pilger said this explicitly.

Mr. Pilger was also a foot on the gas pedal during the IRS’s increased screening of conservative 501(c) groups. In 2010 he reached out to then IRS tax-exempt chief Lois Lerner about prosecuting nonprofits that engaged in political activity for making false statements on their tax returns. In an October 2010 email exchange, Ms. Lerner and Mr. Pilger discussed the transfer of data on 501(c) organizations. The Justice Department ended up with a database of 1.1 million documents, including protected taxpayer information.

Ms. Lerner knows all about campaign “coordination,” having led a multiyear FEC coordination investigation into the Christian Coalition in the 1990s. Ms. Lerner was pursuing a theory that the group had illegally coordinated its issue advocacy with candidates. That theory was rejected in federal court.

All of their arguments seem to turn on the idea that not only is money, and only money, speech, but also that there's no problem coordinating all that money -- er, speech -- with other organizations to form cartels against candidates. Hence the claim of "Speech Police."

Rupert Murdoch really must have his panties in a bunch over the idea that even Republicans have to follow the laws, weak and toothless as they are.

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