Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) doesn’t like playing defense. After FEC Commissioner Lee E. Goodman slammed the agitprop group for a speech-stifling proposal during last week’s FEC hearing, indignation ensued. In short order, the self-styled “watchdog” produced an umbrage-taking blog post and tweet.
The imbroglio centered on the group’s McCutcheon-related rulemaking proposal. CREW suggested the FEC interpret FECA to require regulation of internet electioneering communications (ECs)—issue ads mentioning political candidates. “The Commission should examine whether the statutory language can be construed to cover [ECs] carried over the internet.” The FEC exempted such ads from its dominion in 2006.
Goodman and many others believe a policy reversal would produce an “insidious regulatory scheme,” dampening the internet’s current open, competitive political marketplace. CREW accuses Goodman of misinterpreting its “aims” and “intentions.” Scrutiny of such is long overdue.
Late last summer, Clinton hatchet man David Brock acquired CREW, adding it to his partisan-attack group portfolio, which also includes Media Matters, American Bridge, and the American Independent Institute. These groups, with their combined annual $28 million-dollar budget, exist as opposition-research platforms for the DNC and Clinton Inc. Brock is also strongly intertwined with the high-dollar liberal funding consortium Democracy Alliance. When Brock acquired CREW he explained one of its aims would be “donor targeting.”
Harassing and intimidating opposing donors is par for Brock’s course. Post-Citizens United, Media Matters hatched a plan to discourage political activity by public companies: “Media Matters Action Network will create a multitude of public relations challenges for corporations that make the decision to meddle in political campaigns.” But Brock hardly invented this tactic. Progressives have employed it for generations; Saul Alinsky’s Fifth Rule for Radicals is “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.’ There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.”
Of course neither CREW nor most of Brock’s other concerns subject their donors to public exposure. Brock explained this hypocrisy with familiar self-indulgent progressive moralism at a Democracy Alliance retreat. “You’re not in this room today trying to figure out how to rig the game so you can be free to make money poisoning little kids . . . a false moral equivalence is . . . what they want: keeping us quiet about what they’re doing to destroy the very fabric of our nation.” Translation: we’re good; they’re evil so we get to play by our own rules. This kind of self-assured morality allows purported transparency-philes like Barak Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Elizabeth Warren to pontificate at Democracy Alliance's dark-money confabs without a hint of self-awareness.
Thus CREW’s intentions are straightforward: (i.) force government to dox political enemies; (ii.) turn information over to Brock apparatus; (iii.) bully and intimidate enemies into submission through ethics complaints, litigation, and public pressure campaigns; (iv.) deflect any criticism with moral indignation of virtuous watchdog; (v.) rinse, repeat.
CREW counts Chairwoman Ravel as an ally in step (i.) for internet ECs. “Ann Ravel suggested last year the FEC should examine whether and how to update campaign finance rules to deal with changes in technology and communication that are revolutionizing how campaigns are run. We agree.” They may be mistaken.
The Chairwoman was reticent to even discuss internet regulations at the hearing, despite last year calling for a “new dialogue” on the topic. Even the mere mention of internet regulation seemed to produce in her involuntary twitches and near-audible teeth gnashing. On two occasions, seemingly overcome, she interjected, assuring the audience no internet-regulation plans were looming. She even asked one witness where he had heard such information. The retreat may have unwittingly volunteered her for some Brock-style treatment.
In any event, CREW will continue to harass progressivism's enemies with all the tools $3 million a year can buy. No one should be fooled about its aims or intentions.
By Paul Jossey