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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Taking on the Right’s Murky Surrogates

Wanna see what happens when a Democratic House candidate confronts a murky group spending big bucks on ads attacking him? Check out Amanda Terkel’s HuffPo post, “Rep. Peter DeFazio Turns The Tables, Confronts Shadowy Conservative Group Running Attack Ads Against Him (VIDEO).”
Terkel’s post is of interest for a couple of reasons: 1. These shadowy groups are popping up all over the country, with little accountability, in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision giving them free reign, and 2. DeFazio shows how to reveal their sleazy origins.
Here’s an excerpt of Terkel’s post:

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) is turning the tables on a political group launching attack ads against him in an attempt to bring its shadowy practices to light. On Friday, he went to the Capitol Hill headquarters of the Concerned Taxpayers of America to deliver a letter and speak with members of the organization about making its donors public. But the person who answered the door misrepresented himself and lied, saying he had never heard of Concerned Taxpayers, even though subsequent information shows that he is affiliated with the group…According to Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filings, Concerned Taxpayers is spending $86,000 for ads to help DeFazio’s opponent, Art Robinson.

Terkel goes on to explain that the ads try to portray DeFazio as “a puppet” of Speaker Pelosi, even though he has opposed her on key legislation. Terkel notes that Concerned Citizens’ treasurer is Jason Miller, who is with a Republican political consulting firm, Jamestown Associates, according to the FEC filings and she continues:

DeFazio decided to confront Concerned Taxpayers on Friday, intending to deliver a letter requesting that the group make its donors public. “Since you intend to try and buy Art Robinson a congressional seat, by raising and spending ‘unlimited amounts of money,’ the voters of Oregon are entitled to know who is picking up the tab,” wrote DeFazio.
The Huffington Post, along with a couple of journalists from The Washington Post, accompanied DeFazio on the short walk from the Rayburn House Office Building over to Concerned Taxpayers’ headquarters, listed as 10 E St, SE, which turned out to be a small grey townhouse. DeFazio had to ring the doorbell, knock, and yell through the mail slot before someone came to the door. The man identified himself as Mike Omegna and he told the congressman that he had never heard of Miller or Concerned Taxpayers, nor was his voice on the organization’s voicemail…

Terkel adds,

It appeared that Omegna was dissembling. The Huffington Post called Concerned Taxpayers’ phone number, and the message, in Omegna’s voice, said:
You’ve reached Michael Omegna at Jamestown Associates. I can’t get to my phone right now, but if you leave me your name and number, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. If this is regarding Concerned Taxpayers of America, please leave a detailed message and I will respond back as soon as possible.
So not only did Omegna clearly have an association with Miller — who works at Jamestown Associates — but he also has a tie to Concerned Taxpayers and his voice was on the answering machine, despite what he told DeFazio.

There’s more. But the important thing is that DeFazio got in their face and exposed their origins, as Terkel reports:

…”We’ve got to take it to them,” he told HuffPost. “I’m an activist, always have been my whole life, and I’m going there to confront them and say, ‘Who are you, and why are you so afraid to disclose where your money come from? Would it totally discredit your attacks on me and other Democrats? Would it totally discredit your organization?’ We don’t know who they are. And as I said earlier, how can we enforce existing law, which does say it can’t be a foreign government, a foreign entity, a foreign individual, but if we are allowed no disclosure, how will we ever know who funded these campaigns?”

It’s clear that, by revealing the source of the ads as something other than a genuine independent ‘citizens organization,’ — and showing his guts in getting a videotaped confrontation — DeFazio increased the chances that the ads will backfire. If DeFazio wins, it may be because enough swing voters admired his courage.

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