When the outrageous feign outrage: Jeb Bush on Common Cause

Monday, February 20, 2006 at 10:11 AM

I was tempted to categorize this as humor, but Brother Jeb sure doesn't see it that way.  According to the Orlando Sentinel, Jeb is all het up that Common Cause won't come clean.  It disclosed "only" its top contributors to the $2.6 million Florida ballot campaign it has waged to have redistricting taken out of the hands of the Republican Legislature: the 44 largest contributors who gave $5,000 or more.

Bush's response: "I appreciate they gave up some of their donors. But what about the rest? Where's the outrage?"

Well, in my corner of the universe, the outrage is right here, directed at the brother of the president, who has the audacity to complain about a sane organization's disclosure of "only" the big money donors to a campaign.  If there were any justice in the universe, Jeb would have been struck by lightning in mid-outrage.

Because the Republicans, as I'm sure most of you know, have perfected the stealth political campaign run by a front group formed solely for that purpose, and which absolutely refuses to disclose their donors (who always turn out to be very right wing politicos with far more money than concern with matters of fairness and democracy).

A few examples that I was able to pull together in a an hour or so after I stopped laughing at Jeb's faux outrage:

1. From CBS News on October 27, 2000:

A mysterious group based in Texas called Aretino Industries has released a new attack ad [against Al Gore] modeled after the infamous "Daisy" commercial that President Johnson aired (once) in 1964. ... A spokesman for the group refused to disclose who was paying for the ad. Aretino Industries describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization recently created by 22 "common friends" from across the country. The initial ad buy is $60,000 but the group plans to spend $500,000 between now and Election Day. The ad is airing in Ohio, Michigan, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

2. From the The Austin American-Statesman on August 19, 2005:

A lawsuit against the Texas Association of Business has been expanded to include several corporate donors, most of them insurance companies, that financed the association's 2002 direct-mail campaign that's part of a grand jury investigation.

Austin lawyer Buck Wood, representing three former Democratic candidates who were opposed by the association, now has named eight corporations as defendants: AT&T Corp., Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Co., Ace American Insurance Co., Aetna Inc., Connecticut General Life Insurance Co., United Healthcare of Texas, Cigna Healthcare of Texas Inc. and America's Health Insurance Plans.

More corporations might be added as defendants, Wood said.
For almost three years, [Travis County District Attorney Ronnie] Earle has investigated the association, and its officers have refused to disclose the identity of the donors.

However, 20 corporate donors were identified in documents that the association was forced to surrender last month as part of the lawsuit. The 20 are thought to represent about two-thirds of the corporations that gave money to TAB.

3. From The Reform Institute on January 10, 2005:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has ruled that federal courts cannot intervene in a long-running dispute in Ohio regarding disclosure of funding for television "issue ads" attacking {Democratic] judicial candidates in the 2000 election (Citizens for a Strong Ohio v. Marsh, 6th Cir., No. 04-3112, 1/3/05).

But the dispute ultimately may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, anyway. Citizens for a Strong Ohio, an arm of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce that funded the ads in question and continues to be active in Ohio politics, has indicated it will appeal to the Supreme Court decisions by the Ohio state courts ordering disclosure of the ad funding in 2000. The group has steadfastly refused to say who funded the ads, despite a threat of heavy fines imposed by the state courts.

4. From Alliance for a Better California:

California State Treasurer Phil Angelides today proposed tough new disclosure rules to ensure full transparency of private funding and expenditures related to official foreign travel by California's Governor. Angelides also called on Governor Schwarzenegger to reveal the financial details for his recent six-day trip to China, where he toured with corporate special-interests and his chief fundraiser by his side. Schwarzenegger has refused to disclose the sources of private funding and expenditures related to the trip, which could have cost upwards of a million dollars.

5. From the Maryland Democratic Party, on March 17, 2004:

What began as a simple request for information is starting to look like a scandal. At yesterday's legislative hearing the Ehrlich administration said it "cannot provide lawmakers with a list of donors who contributed $90,000 to subsidize state-sponsored parties during the Preakness Stakes last year in exchange for special access to the governor."....The investigation discovered a nonprofit group "formed by Gov. Ehrlich's political allies sought as much as $50,000 apiece from Annapolis lobbyists and business interests last year in exchange for golf dates and private receptions with the governor,"..."The nonprofit group has declined to disclose any information about its donors or activities since its existence was first reported."

6. From the Washington Post, on March 27, 2005:

Fortune 500 companies that invested millions of dollars in electing Republicans are emerging as the earliest beneficiaries of a government controlled by President Bush and the largest GOP House and Senate majority in a half century....Wal-Mart is only one of scores of businesses that sought the class-action law. The companies, which included technology firms such as Intel Corp. and pharmaceutical giants such as GlaxoSmithKline Plc, did much of their lobbying quietly though a group called the Class Action Fairness Coalition, which is run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for Legal Reform. Both refused to disclose their donors."

7. From Texans for Public Justice, on July 21, 2003:

Since they formed the Republican Attorney General Association (RAGA) in 1999, the top lawyers of several states have acted as if they were awaiting judicial confirmation of the fact that they must publicly disclose RAGA's political contributions and expenditures--as most other political committees routinely do.  "RAGA's failure to come clean on its funds lends poetic justice to the self-inflicted plight of RAGA founder Bill Pryor," said Texans for Public Justice Director Craig McDonald. "Now RAGA's stealth finances have delayed Pryor's own judicial confirmation proceedings. It is past time for RAGA to disclose four years' worth of its contributions and expenditures. Senator Cornyn and Bill Pryor need to open RAGA's books. Contempt for the public's right to know is not a qualification for the federal bench."

And while it doesn't involve a political campaign per se, there's the amazing idea, documented by the Center for American Progress that "In Iraq, the Coalition Provisional Authority has refused to disclose how it spends both Iraqi and American funds, and secrecy and misperception continue to surround the process of awarding contracts."

And of course, Dick Cheney sure doesn't have to disclose which energy companies were at his meetings early in the Bush reign.

I just love it when the outrageous pretend to be outraged.  Maybe Jeb can sign up to be one of the right's perpetually outraged talking heads when his term is over.  What do you think: "Bush and Colmes"?  "Coulter & Bush"?  "Rush Lim-Bush"?

We have ever-crappier health care at ever-higher cost, we have fewer and fewer jobs at lower and lower wages, and all our consumer goods and appliances are produced in China, India, or Viet Nam, but....we lead the world in two things:

  1. Outrage (bring back my Christmas, you gay abortionist!).

  2. Military spending.

I suspect the two are related.