Maureen Otis: A Mystery Inside A Mystery

While reporters have given their utmost attention to anecdotal points and gaffes of political candidates, Maureen Otis has passed invisibly among great events, given no notice, a figure of almost no possible consequence; she is something like an attractive woman whose face blends into the crowd, of small notice in a photo taken on the cusp of some national tragedy, except: she slowly develops an eerie presence as you flick through other pictures of historical significance, and there she is, always off to the side, in every one of them.

I enjoy looking out for interesting people on the fringes, yet it was only after I read the excellent “The Gary Johnson Swindle and the Degradation of Third Party Politics” by Marc Ames that I came across her name. Ames isn’t dazzled by this idiosyncratic candidate as others have been, but disgusted instead at what he sees as a very dirty, nasty trick played by a few powerful men. He notices something that the roving herd which must invest every Mitt Romney “golly” with existential significance doesn’t have time for: the filing papers for this clean hands third party candidate’s PAC, “Our America Initiative”, are signed by two long time conservative operators, James Lacy and the near invisible woman, Maureen Otis.

The Our America Initiative registration documents can be found here.

Before we move over entirely to Otis, a short note on Lacy will indicate why Ames was so disturbed at seeing his name on the filing document, as well as hinting at Otis’s own skills. Lacy specializes in direct mail, often employing mailers that are deceptive, cajoling seniors that some unrelated new proposition will cause medicare cuts, or say, convincing liberals to vote against a minimum wage law by sending out a flier that has a panel of prominent democrats with the directive to vote against the new law1. The politicians whose likenesses are used, are all in support of the law, and have no knowledge of the fliers.

Otis shares some of the skill set of Lacy, but where Lacy is a contained virus, Otis is closer to a wide-ranging avian flu. She runs a firm in Stafford, Texas, called American Caging and the name may or may not have a malign connotation. Caging, in this possible sense, came to broader attention when Monica Goodling, former justice department counsel, testified that the deputy attorney general had not been fully honest about his knowledge of an appointee’s involvement with “vote caging” in the 2004 election. “What the heck is vote caging, and why does nobody care?”, asked Dalia Lithwick in Slate. She then gave a succinct, solid answer:

Vote caging is an illegal trick to suppress minority voters (who tend to vote Democrat) by getting them knocked off the voter rolls if they fail to answer registered mail sent to homes they aren’t living at (because they are, say, at college or at war).

The appointee, Tim Griffin, would pointedly disagree, in a short piece by Jane Mayer, “Bullets”:

“Caging is not a derogatory term,” he [Tim Griffin, the appointee in question] said, as soon as he got on the phone.”It’s a direct-mail term. It derives from caging categories of mail in steel shelves and files.” He said that the implication that he had run an operation to suppress African-American voters, which could be a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, was “false and close to libelous.”

By contrast, the description that American Caging gives of its activities on its website ( link) leaves one puzzled. They appear to be involved in noble, charitable work for the betterment of those in urgent need, in ways that have nothing to do with direct mail, with or without voter suppression, or even elections at all:

Headquartered in Houston, Texas, American Caging is one of the leading providers of lockbox and data management services, founded in 1990. Since the company’s foundation, it has maintained its core focus for accurate, trustworthy and affordable lock box services.

Our first clients hired us, not because we were located in Washington, D.C. or because we had expensive processing equipment. They came to us because of the high level of customer service, our affordable pricing and because they trusted us to accurately process their contributions.

Over the years our company grew and expanded primarily because of referrals from existing clients who were part of the ACI family. In early 2001, the national headquarters of the American Red Cross joined ACI’s family. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, ACI processed hundreds of thousands of contributions from around the world to the American Red Cross. In 11 years, we went from a very small operation with a handful of clients, to the caging company primarily responsible for handling contributions during one of our worst national tragedies. We are proud and honored to be a part of the effort to heal the nation.

(Because occasionally these things disappear on the internet, I’ve put up a screenshot of this web page.)

american caging overview

This description is a mild evasion of what American Caging has done for a decade and a half, and for what it is well known for. It handles fundraising and related direct mail projects for two types of non-profits, standard benevolent entities as well as hard-line religious and conservative organizations. There is a tricky game being played here – many of these entities appear to be lobbying groups set up for the interests of a particular group, when in fact they’ve been designed for issue advocacy. Of the many possible examples of this, the most prominent is the “60 Plus Association”, whose name implies an advocacy group founded by seniors for the interests of seniors. They are nothing of the kind – they receive a large chunk of their money from pharmaceutical companies, as well as the Center to Protect Patients Rights, an anti-Obamacare non-profit run by Sean Noble, an associate of the Koch brothers2. Other donors include the American Petroleum Institute and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS3. This group, whose name suggests it lobbies for the interests of seniors, has fought against Obamacare, fought against the regulation of greenhouse gases, fought to have Yucca mountain used as a storage site for nuclear waste, and demanded, in the wake of the Katrina disaster, not to sacrifice lower taxes in favor of disaster relief, but rather, to rely on market solutions to help Katrina victims4. Most strikingly, ersatz seniors advocacy groups such as these, fought against legislation to reduce drug prices5. Beyond the gains of misleading voters of their true intents, another advantage to a non-profit lobbying for political causes that is not, explicitly, a political advocacy group, is that it does not have to disclose its donors – these are 501(c)(4) entities, the dark money that’s shaped recent elections: “How Nonprofits Spend Millions on Elections and Call it Public Welfare”.

The “60 Plus Association” lists Maureen E. (the E is for Elizabeth6) Otis as a legal contact, but it is one of only many that do so. To give an idea of her prolific skills, I list all the non-profits, which can be divided between benevolent organizations (the most prestigious of which is easily the Mayo Clinic) and political advocacy groups, that have her as a legal contact from a 2006 charity list from the secretary of state’s office of Tennessee. Another list of non-profits which heavily features Otis as legal contact is at the State of New Hampshire’s Justice Department – there is heavy overlap between the two lists, though some groups are on one and not the other; the list below should not be considered exhaustive of all groups with an Otis association, but it serves the purpose of showing how wide-ranging her reach is.

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

Maureen Otis - Mystery

We may find her as the legal contact for cancer charity Cancer Schmancer (affiliated with Fran Drescher)7, Dress For Success (affiliated with make-up artist Bobbi Brown)8, the troubled project of the National Women’s History Museum9, a PAC supporting Texas republican Louis Gohmert10, as well as conservative powerhouses The Club for Growth11, and The Richard Norman Company12. She is the legal contact for Jewish Voice Ministries International, whose stated purpose is “bringing the Gospel to the Jew first”13, the Corrie Ten Boom Fellowship, a christian zionist organization whose purpose is to share god’s love with the jewish people14, and Policy Issues Institute, also known as Impeach Obama Campaign, which also lists James Lacy’s law office as its address15. Otis is the legal contact for the Christian Research Institute, a religious advocacy group that views the church of latter-day saints and the jehovah’s witnesses as non-christian cults16. Otis’s name is there as contact for the National Vaccine Center, a controversial group that fights against early childhood vaccinations17. She’s also there for Californians for Population Stabilization, a group opposed to legal immigrants18. She isn’t listed as the legal contact for The Society For Truth and Justice Inc. – there the contact is infamous pro-lifer Randall Terry – but the mailing address is once again, “4850 Wright Road, Ste 168 Stafford, TX 77477”, the address of American Caging and the one she often uses when she’s the legal contact; the very same place that shows up as the address listing for the pro-republican Patriot PAC19. She is the legal contact for the Declaration Alliance (also known as Secure Borders), a part of whose website manifesto I quote here:

Whereas the United States of America is under relentless attack by foreign invaders who neither obey our laws nor honor our institutions; and

Whereas this foreign force now numbers up to 20 to 30 million people within the geographic boundaries of the United States; and

Whereas these invaders are bankrupting the United States by overwhelming our medical, educational, and judicial systems; and

Whereas the foreigners sneaking into the United States have no plans to assimilate and become Americans, but instead desire to see the southwestern states transformed into Spanish-speaking provinces of Mexico; and

Whereas members of radical Islamic terror groups (classified by US Border Patrol as “OTMs or Other Than Mexicans”) continue to execute a plan of infiltration of the United States mainland through incursions along the border with Mexico, for the purpose of establishing terror cells and training operations within our homeland;

Therefore, let it be resolved that we, the people of the United States, citizens by birth or naturalization, do hereby DEMAND that the Congress of the United States immediately secure our border with Mexico, enforce current laws by arresting and deporting all criminal illegal aliens, and block all attempts to pass any type of amnesty legislation.

(Because occasionally these things disappear on the internet, I’ve put up screenshots of this web page.)

(a copy of this manifesto can still be found on-line at the blog, On the Arizona Border, their entry for March 2013, “Manifesto of American Sovereignty”)

Of more relevant note for this post, as well as for the recent election, is that she is the legal contact for True The Vote20, an anti-fraud vote group with Tea Party links, which was accused of harassment during the presidential election, and whose members were rejected as poll watchers in Ohio because names had been falsified on forms requesting observer status21. Those who attended a True the Vote training session spoke of being told to use cameras to intimidate voters and to do what was possible to prevent “questionable” voters from getting access to voting machines22. This may not fit the strict definition of “caging”, voter suppression through mail, but I think it unquestionably can be called voter suppression.

The place where Otis first achieves a mainstream prominence is not through her association with organizations clashing with those on the left, but those fighting amongst themselves on the right. In 2005, an anti-immigrant organization, the Minuteman Project, suffered a violent rupture when its two founders, Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist, fell into dispute with each other, with Gilchrist, along with many of his followers, leaving the group23. A major point of contention was what had happened to money raised by its members for construction of a private border fence that was intended to replicate that used by Israel against Gaza, with a six foot trench and bullet-proof cameras, but ended up being just a barbed-wire cattle fence, fencing that costs a hundredth of the projected high-tech barrier24. Gilchrist and others demanded to know what had happened to the donated funds, with Simcox refusing to give answers, dismissing those who continued to question him, and assuring critics that the funds were safely being taken care of by a reputable company, a reputable company called American Caging25.

Otis released a statement, making clear that “since the day MCDC [Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, the new name for the Minuteman Project after Gilchrist left] was incorporated, my company has acted as the comptroller and escrow agent for MCDC.”26 When the arch-conservative Washington Times did a story on the brouhaha, Otis could not divulge any figures to the paper, as she had not been given permission to do so by Simcox or members of the board27. That she handled donations for the group only hinted at the various ways she was interconnected with the story. She was the MCDC’s board secretary28; she was the legal contact for the aforementioned Declaration Alliance, which sometimes appears to be an arm of the former presidential campaign of Alan Keyes, and not only did the Declaration Alliance give substantial funding to the MCDC, but the MCDC’s website claimed that it was a project of the Declaration Alliance29; following Gilchrist’s departure, the MCDC contracted with Diener Consulting for public relations work – Diener Consulting was an American Caging client, run by Philip Sheldon, son of Louis Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition (listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group), for whom Otis was listed as legal contact30; Philip Sheldon was previously known for obtaining the names of donors to Terry Schiavo’s legal fund for the use of Response Unlimited, which provides mailing lists to conservative organizations. He now helped this same Response Unlimited obtain access to MCDC’s donor rolls for its own mailing list purposes31; Response Unlimited was, of course, an American Caging client32. This company, American Caging, was involved in all this at the same time the Texas state comptroller had listed them as “not in good standing” because of their non-compliance with state tax requirements33.

This tumult in 2006 is where Otis achieves her greatest personal prominence34, but she had already shown up, in a very brief cameo, at a much more important debate. The year before, when the Bush administration was attempting to push forward a program of social security privatization, private retirement accounts as a replacement for traditional social security. Given that a major opponent of the privatization move was the AARP, a lobby composed of seniors acting in the interests of seniors, a useful opponent to the AARP might be a lobby ostensibly designed to serve the interests of seniors, when in fact it was actually funded by interests attempting to craft their own legislation, in prescription drug laws and pension reform. We might imagine this entity to be something like the United Seniors Association, also known as USA Next, also known as Americans Lobbying Against Rationing of Medical Care (ALARM), USA, chaired by Charles Jarvis, a former aide to Iowa Republican Charles “Assume Deer Dead” Grassley and a former employee of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family35. Though incorporated in 1991 by Richard Viguerie, a conservative with a genius for direct mail, it was in that last decade of the twentieth century something ike a creature that barely moved above the ocean’s surface36. One of the few times that I’ve been able to come across its presence then was when Pete Stark, California congressman, submitted mail from the group to the federal postal inspector, arguing that the non-profit was committing mail fraud:

I wish to report a postal fraud by United Seniors Association, 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450, Fairfax, VA 22030 and urge your immediate action to impose appropriate penalties.

Enclosed are two mailings from the United Seniors Association (USA) urgently asking for money on the basis of false pretenses and representations. The USA letter contains innumerable inaccuracies and errors of fact. It is so blatantly wrong that it cannot be a simple act of stupidity, but is a calculated scheme to frighten Medicare beneficiaries out of money. In particular, in the letter of September 22, 1997, the paragraph on the first page which reads `Here’s what this appalling new law does: if you are a Medicare patient and you want to personally pay for a treatment which Medicare does not want to cover–it will be nearly impossible to do so. . ..’

This statement, repeated in numerous ways throughout the mailings, is false.

Medicare beneficiaries have always been able to contract privately with doctors for services which Medicare does not cover. Nothing in any law has changed that right. Under certain conditions, the new law actually extends that `right’ to services which Medicare does cover–a new right to be billed more than the Medicare payment rate by physicians, which did not exist before. See enclosed memoranda.

I also urge you to investigate for fraud the enclosed recent Seniors Coalition [yes, indeedy: Otis is listed as legal contact for this group] mailing (11166 Main Street, Suite 302, Fairfax, VA 22030). This mailing calls for `an emergency contribution’ to help fund a lawsuit on the private contracting issue. The cover letter is rather extraordinary in that it asks people to send money to help fight something for which the writer has `no time to explain.’ The statements in the letter over Mary Martin’s signature is false: `your health care will be rationed in a Clinton HMO.’ The enclosed news articles contain numerous errors and misrepresentations. I believe that this mailing may also be a mail fraud because it uses false statements in the cover letter and inaccurate or incomplete statements in the news articles to scare people into sending money to support plans for a lawsuit. I know of no such lawsuit or any grounds for it, and I ask your investigators to determine whether there is in fact such a planned use of the money bilked from the public.

It was in 2001 as prescription drug legislation was being crafted, that this organization achieved a higher profile. It received $1.5 million in donations that year from PhRMA, a trade association for U.S. drug companies, then received close to $25 million over the next two years from a group that can only be guessed at – because USA Next is a non-profit, ostensibly non-partisan organization, it does not have to disclose its donors, and it must be gleaned from what’s there in the IRS filings. The donor does begin with the letter “P”; its spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that the donor was PhRMA37. A 2004 article noted that though USA Next claimed a million members, its most recent tax return claimed zero income from individual member donations38.

In 2002, this organization spent over $14 million in ads defending republicans on how they voted on a prescription drug bill39. In 2005, they picked a fight with the AARP, which was opposed to the privatization of social security. “I’m trying to kill, destroy the bad public policy of AARP,” said Jarvis at the time40. It was this fight that gave the group greater prominence, causing Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo, to note that United Seniors Association was “affiliates” with O’Neill Marketing Company. It must be a very tight affiliation, Marshall noted, since USA Next listed as its address 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450, while O’Neill listed its address as 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450A41. Marshall then gave this succinct observation:

Despite my now living in New York I sometimes still feel the need to translate from Beltwayese into standard English. So in this case, in DC-speak we would say that United Seniors Association is ‘colocated’ with O’Neill Marketing Company whereas in standard English we would say that United Seniors Association ‘is’ O’Neill Marketing Company.

Other O’Neill clients were: Empower America/Citizens for Sound Economy, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican Governors Association, and the Republican National Committee.

Jarvis, again at the time: “I’m very aggressively pro-free-market solutions.” He would continue: “I am very aggressively finding people who agreed with our rock `n’ roll free-market approach.”42 Part of Jarvis’s rock’n’roll approach was to try and use the cultural wars agains the AARP – they, USA Next, were for mainstream values. The AARP was not. This was the controversial ad they put out to make the difference clear, exposing the real agenda of the long-time seniors association. It caused an immediate and hostile backlash, not towards the AARP, but the craven opportunists who had created it:

Maureen Otis - Mystery

USA Next was sued by the couple featured in the photo43. Jarvis, his rock’n’roll lifestyle undeterred, had no regrets about using the photo except for not obtaining permission first44. It was the Scaramouche Blog entry, “Agenda Makers & The Real Agenda” which noticed another important detail. I apologize for the melodramatic bold, but I think this warrants it:

The other day this ad was running on the conservative site The American Spectator. It clicked through to USA which is running Swift Boat Vet’s type campaign against the AARP which opposes Bush’s destruction of Social Security.

So who is behind USA Next? According to a Whois search the site is registered to

William Brindley
3900 Jermantown Road, suite 450
Fairfax, VA 22030
tel. (703)359-6500

So who else shares that address with them? There is United Seniors Association, Inc. or USA, Inc, which morphed into USA Next. I ran another search on the phone number. Again, there is United Seniors Association, Inc. (USA, Inc.), also known, as ALARM -Americans Lobbying Against Rationing of Medical Care, USA (notice the lovely choice of acronyms) and I saw there is also Maureen E. Otis sharing the same address.

Now if you had had thriving business in registering fundraising groups in, lets say, the State of Washington you would most likely have a mention of that on your website. I can only speculate on why one would play that down unless various connections weren’t meant to be known. Otis is tied to The Richard Norman Company also which has carried on some fundraising activities for USA/USA Next Inc. and funneled quite sum of money [sic] to the Swifties.

The links, in this ever-changing web, no longer point to the same thing – Jarvis is now contact person for USA Next. Otis now always uses the Stafford, Texas address, not one in Virginia. What her previous ties to the Richard Norman Company were, I’m not sure. However, she is still named as the legal contact for this entity, which is listed as a commercial fundraiser. What charities have used the services of this fundraiser? The Alliance for Marriage, the Alliance for Marriage Foundation, Californians for Population Stabilization, the Club For Growth, the Declaration Alliance, the Montpelier Foundation, and True the Vote – all organizations with, of course, I-think-you-can-guess as their legal contact.

There are no doubt many other points in recent history when Otis shows up – but I move forward to her next interesting moment that I came across in my brief investigation. In 2011, the National Organization of Women found itself envelopped in civil strife, with the traditionally liberal group taken over by a conservative national leadership, its state chapters in open revolt.

Angie King, the San Luis Obispo chapter co-ordinator for NOW, sent out an open letter on this last year. I quote the opening paragraphs, which give succinct summary of what was taking place45:

Since 2008, when the current national board of directors for the National Organization of Women was elected by only 8 votes, following a scorched earth campaign by the current officers, troubling news keeps leaking out of Washington, D.C., where national NOW has its headquarter offices. At first, the problem was that there was no news. The transparency of former administrations in keeping the grassroots membership informed of executive decisions ceased. Access to the board meetings was restricted. Dues rebates, the heart blood of the local chapters’ ability to maintain a presence, were cut off. Rumors circulated about illegal (or at least bylaw violative) financial accounting instituted by this national board.

Remember when Shelly Mandell introduced Sarah Palin in Los Angeles, calling herself “president of LA NOW” even though she had been forcibly dismissed some years earlier? Remember the Harpers (October 2010) article by Susan Faludi about the improper financial shenanigans at the national NOW level? Well, this is worse.

CA NOW has held numerous discussions among its members how to respond to the issues raised. In the beginning, we felt it better to continue the positive messages and actions we are known for, without airing our “dirty linen,” so to speak. With each revelation, however, came the realization that we can’t continue to maintain that silence when it comes to the underlying reason we belong to NOW.

The perception by state level organizations of NOW and many chapters (including our own) was that the national NOW had been subverted by a dedicated tight-knit group of anti-woman, probably anti-feminist, women committed to the goal of ruining the integrity of NOW in the public’s eye and thus, neutralizing all the years of advocacy on behalf of women and girls.

I now move to the letter where a certain figure shows up, again. I bold her appearance.

In June this year, CA NOW became the latest target for the cabal. There are many reasons why CA NOW has been targeted. We forced national NOW to acknowledge that Mandell was not president of LA NOW and to hold an election; we complained about the lack of dues rebates in a specially called meeting, which has caused the national organization to resume sending checks. Perhaps our defense of NOW alarmed the increasingly conservative national board, who sought to replace the long-standing infrastructure of CA NOW with a known right-wing anti-woman lobbyist, as the “official” contact in the state for NOW Foundation Inc.

First, CA NOW received a request from the executive vice president of National NOW in June requesting it agree to Maureen Otis as our state contact. National NOW had been unable to register in California due to a name conflict with CA NOW. Attached to the request was the letter from the Secretary of State rejecting the registration, addressed to the Law Office of Maureen E. Otis in Texas. We were confused because NOW has been registered in California for many years so this appeared to be a new registration, which didn’t make sense.

Obviously, CA NOW never gave permission to file for this new registration to do business in California because National NOW and the Foundation are already registered in the state. Despite already being registered, the California Secretary of State accepted the new filing with Maureen E. Otis’ name, contact information in Texas, and Melvin D. Green as the agent for process, with an address listed as 5466 Santa Monica Blvd. #106, Los Angeles, CA 90029. This National Organization for Women’s agent for service of process is a Dollar Discount Store. A people search fails to connect Melvin D. Green to the address above, and the only Melvin D. Green found in the Los Angeles area is deceased. A California Secretary of State website search shows Melvin D. Green’s name on a suspended corporation C0850195 filed and suspended in 1977 named NOW Incorporated with the same address sans the suite number. This search may explain where the name came from, but not why service for process for the National Organization for Women Foundation would be a Dollar Discount Store.

Since the letter from the Secretary of State to Maureen E. Otis in Texas was troubling to us, we began our research on Maureen E. Otis. What we discovered from a simple Google search on Maureen E. Otis is disturbing. We discovered that she is the acting secretary of Freedom Watch, a Minuteman group out of Texas as well as being legal counsel for the Franklin Center, both of which have ties to the Koch brothers. Maureen E. Otis operates her law office out of an organization she leads called “American Caging” where she has established charities for the Impeach Obama Foundation, Club for Growth, Alliance for Marriage Foundation, Border Fence Project, American Conservative Union Foundation, American Patriots for Conservative Action, Committee for Justice, Common Good, Leadership Institute, OUR America Initiative, the Minutemen Project and countless more right-wing organizations. Her own website (American Caging) lists such clients as the Declaration Alliance, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and the Traditional Values Coalition. The Declaration Alliance runs a petition on their website to disbar and impeach Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

If that wasn’t bad enough, we were left speechless to discover that Maureen E. Otis also works for the Terry Family Trust whose purpose to is help Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, to recover from legal victories won by NOW and others.

I give a further lengthy quote from this letter as to what Ms. King thinks the motive behind the takeover strategy might be, and bold the most pertinent part:

As a side note, but related, a search on the Secretary of State’s website using NOW and National Organization for Women revealed that the conservative San Rafael law firm Nielsen Merksamer filed incorporation papers on June 20, 2011 for a “new” California NOW non-profit, with the purpose “to promote healthy public debate over the critical issues facing California, advance meaningful reform and hold public officials accountable.” Merksamer represents the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of primarily conservative members of state legislatures, and the Free Enterprise Coalition, a conservative organization. We take note of this new non-profit corporation using our brand because this occurred at or near the time that Otis was hired. Whether these are independent acts to corrupt the NOW brand or acts in concert is of no matter. The issue remains – the corruption of the NOW brand with right wing associations.

California NOW members, through California NOW, have no control over the National Organization or Women (NOW), the use of its trademark or the National Organization for Women Foundation and its trademark. That responsibility primarily resides with the National Organization or Women Board of Directors. It isn’t hard to see the advantage to the right wing if they can control the NOW logo. Our logo has become a trusted symbol of initiatives and candidates who support women. We must act decisively in order for that symbol to retain its meaning.

I digress briefly to an episode that does not involve Otis directly – a brief mention of a near successful attempt to do what was done with NOW, a takeover of a liberal organization in order to use its brand to advance a reactionary agenda. This would be the 2004 attempt to put into place an anti-immigrant leadership of the environmental group the Sierra Club. It is described in these interview excerpts with J. Robert Cox, former Sierra Club president with the invaluable Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report, “Former Sierra Club Director Discusses Hostile Takeover Attempt by Anti-Immigrant Activists “. I bold significant parts46:

INTELLIGENCE REPORT: What was your first personal contact with anti-immigration activists interested in the Sierra Club?

ROBBIE COX: When I was president of the Club for the first time. In 1996, volunteer leaders in the Club’s population program approached the board of directors to alert us that new members were coming into the Sierra Club wanting to push immigration as an issue. These leaders thought this was simply inappropriate for the Club, because we had no evidence that U.S. immigration was detrimental to the environment.

So we agreed that year to refine the existing policy by adopting a statement of neutrality on U.S. immigration.

COX: Once the board adopted the neutrality policy, it apparently motivated what we thought was simply a small group of Sierra Club members who began to object. The board held steadfast – we simply did not see the evidence. This group then initiated the ballot proposition process.

The Sierra Club is very open and democratic in its governing structure. It not only allows all its members, over 700,000 people, to elect its board of directors. It also allows members to put forward a ballot proposition, if they gather enough signatures, that can alter the Club’s existing policies.

So this group organized itself as SUSPS, or Sierrans for U.S. Population Stabilization, and began a petition drive to get their proposition on the ballot. This happened in 1997, and the election occurred in the spring of 1998.

IR: Do you know who the principals of SUSPS were then?

COX: One principal actor was Ben Zuckerman. Zuckerman had formerly been a director of an anti-immigration group called Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America, which is a group whose name does not suggest its goal of restricting immigration into the U.S. Zuckerman was also an officer on the board of another group called Californians for Population Stabilization, or CAPS.

We frankly didn’t know some of the people working with him at the time. I think we underestimated how serious this was in 1998.

IR: In the next few years, anti-immigration candidates Ben Zuckerman and Paul Watson ran for the board – both of them unsuccessfully at first, but winning in the end. Did you realize then that the anti-immigration effort had not yet concluded?

COX: We weren’t aware at the time of an organized effort, either within the Sierra Club or stretching beyond it with some of the outside allies that we now know they have. But this began to change in the last two years.

In 2002, Zuckerman ran a second time and was elected. This time, he dramatically altered his ballot statement and began to speak of his concerns about the Club being more visible on college campuses and about funding for our conservation program.

He did mention population, too, but he never talked about immigration, as he had in his first campaign. He was elected that year.

IR: Since winning, has Zuckerman discussed immigration with the board?

COX: He has asked for time in many board sessions to make speeches to us about the importance of immigration, often citing non-environmental reasons to reverse our neutrality policy, most recently having to do with post-9/11 security concerns. He has also cited concerns about U.S. workers being displaced by immigrants.

At one point, we asked about the link between the environment and a story that he sent us about illegal crossings on the southern border. As far as I could see, the only documented environmental impact was that they were littering the desert with water bottles and trash – there was a photo of discarded bottles at a campsite.

Most recently, he sent to several of us on the board an article from that claimed that Hispanics were spreading disease and crime in the U.S., and that “Hispandering politicians” were allowing this to happen. I was quite upset by that.

IR: What happened after Zuckerman’s election in 2002?

COX: I think SUSPS realized they had a winning strategy.

The following year, 2003, they ran three more candidates, including Doug LaFollette, the Wisconsin secretary of state, and, once again, Paul Watson. They referred to many conservation issues and to population in general, but never mentioned immigration.

Two of them, LaFollette and Watson, were elected.

So by May of last year, we had begun to realize that we had an organized effort to put in place enough directors to take control of the board.

If Watson is to be believed, the intent is not only to seize control of the board, but also of the Club’s assets and credibility – the reputation of the Club itself.

IR: What ultimately is at stake here?

COX: I think the very identity and character of the Sierra Club is at stake if these outside forces succeed in taking it over. We will lose the historical values that have made the Club what it is – a grassroots-driven organization whose members care deeply about the protection of the wild places of the Earth, human health and the quality of the environment overall.

This takeover attempt would ultimately fail, with Sierra Club members alerted to what was going on, and the anti-immigrant candidates receiving only a fraction of the votes in the next election. The connection to Otis is indirect, but it is there: Ben Zuckerman, one of the principal actors in the takeover was an officer in the anti-immigrant group Californians for Population Stabilization, a group funded by anti-immigrant activist John Tanton, who also founded Federation for American Immigration Reform and U.S. English (FAIR), as well as being involved with the American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF) and California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR)47. FAIR, AICF, and CCIR have all been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Foundation. Californians for Population Stabilization, in which Zuckerman was an officer, has as its legal contact on its registration papers a Maureen E. Otis.

We now have the tactic of what was already done with non-profits, the 60 Plus Association or USA Next, these organizations outwardly appearing to be lobby groups for constituents, when they are in actual fact lobby groups for industry, taken to its next, logical step: grabbing an existing progressive brand, and transforming its function to one’s own ends. The brand persists, but its objectives are now those of whatever group conquers it.

This, I emphasize, is the next logical step – but not the final one. This piece ends where it begins, with my reading “The Gary Johnson Swindle and the Degradation of Third Party Politics” by Marc Ames: that article gives succinct, acerbic summary of the past works of Gary Johnson, Jim Lacy, and Maureen Otis – though because their focus is broader than mine, they do not quite give Otis the scope her story is due. One more character of crucial importance in “Swindle” I have made no mention of yet is Roger Stone, a former Nixon dirty trickster; I quote from a Matt Labash profile, “Roger Stone, Political Animal”, cited in “Swindle” of a trick he pulled during the 1980 presidential election to split the vote of New York state, delivering its electoral votes to Reagan:

Around the time [Stone] became northeast chairman of Reagan’s 1980 campaign, he had another awakening when he started working with the notorious lawyer Roy Cohn, former McCarthy henchman and also a Reagan supporter. “I’m still kind of a neophyte,” Stone admits, “still kind of thinking everything’s on the level. ‘Cause the truth is, nothing’s on the level.” At a 1979 meeting at Cohn’s Manhattan townhouse, he was introduced to major mobster and Cohn client Fat Tony Salerno. “Roy says to Tony, ‘You know, Tony, everything’s fixed. Everything can be handled.’ Tony says, ‘Roy, the Supreme Court’ Roy says, ‘Cost a few more dollars.'” Stone loved Cohn: “He didn’t give a s– what people thought, as long as he was able to wield power. He worked the gossip columnists in this city like an organ.”

Stone, who going back to his class elections in high school has been a proponent of recruiting patsy candidates to split the other guy’s support, remembers suggesting to Cohn that if they could figure out a way to make John Anderson the Liberal party nominee in New York, with Jimmy Carter picking up the Democratic nod, Reagan might win the state in a three-way race. “Roy says, ‘Let me look into it.'” Cohn then told him, “‘You need to go visit this lawyer’–a lawyer who shall remain nameless–‘and see what his number is.’ I said, ‘Roy, I don’t understand.’ Roy says, ‘How much cash he wants, dumbf–.'” Stone balked when he found out the guy wanted $125,000 in cash to grease the skids, and Cohn wanted to know what the problem was. Stone told him he didn’t have $125,000, and Cohn said, “That’s not the problem. How does he want it?”

Cohn sent Stone on an errand a few days later. “There’s a suitcase,” Stone says. “I don’t look in the suitcase . . . I don’t even know what was in the suitcase . . . I take the suitcase to the law office. I drop it off. Two days later, they have a convention. Liberals decide they’re endorsing John Anderson for president. It’s a three-way race now in New York State. Reagan wins with 46 percent of the vote. I paid his law firm. Legal fees. I don’t know what he did for the money, but whatever it was, the Liberal party reached its right conclusion out of a matter of principle.”

I ask him how he feels about this in retrospect. He seems to feel pretty good–now that certain statutes of limitations are up. He cites one of Stone’s Rules, by way of Malcolm X, his “brother under the skin”: “By any means necessary.”

The details on Lacy, Otis, and Stone in “Swindle”, damning to the Johnson campaign in and of themselves, are there to put forward a thesis: that the Johnson campaign was intended to split votes just as the Anderson candidacy did, between a democrat and a libertarian, anti-security state, anti-drug war candidate, thus delivering the election to Mitt Romney. Though “Swindle” does not mention it, Stone was also involved in two earlier efforts to shape the vote through outsider candidates. In 2000, he worked to have Pat Buchannan made the head of the reform party, then made threats of revealing information on a possible out-of-wedlock child of Buchanan; whether as a result of this or something else, Buchanan led a vapor campaign in the general election, leaving Bush without a third-party challenger on the right, while Gore had to give up some of his vote to Nader. In 2007, Stone would brag in an interview of helping to destroy the reform party, because, in his view, it had cost the republicans the white house in 1992 and 199648. In 2004, Stone backed Al Sharpton in the democratic primaries, with Sharpton pushing the message that the democratic party was unresponsive to the demands of black voters. The intent appears to have been to either dissuade black voters from voting that year, or maybe even move them over to vote for George W. Bush – both stories come from the diligent work of the Village Voice‘s Wayne Barrett, whose work on Sharpton and, especially, Stone, is invaluable, a reporter who exercises an aggressive insight this world can never have too much of49.

In an interview with Reason magazine editor Nick Gillespie and in a classroom discussion moderated by Gillespie, political operative Roger Stone states openly and explicitly that he destroyed the third party Reform Party in 1992 and 1992 because it split the conservative vote, and caused the Republicans to lose. Taken from the interviews, “Roger Stone at Reason November 28, 2007” and “Roger Stone on New Media and Old Campaign Tricks”.

I include the relevant sections of “The libertarian/marijuana conspiracy to swing the election” by Dave Sirota, another article employed by Ames to further his hypothesis:

Here in the center of the Intermountain West, we have polls showing a nail-bitingly close race between the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. We have a chief election official, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who has tried both to engage in mass voter purges and to block the mailing of ballots to eligible voters, all while openly saying a “good election” is one in which “Republicans win.” On the ballot, we also have a headline-grabbing ballot initiative about marijuana legalization and a popular former two-term governor of a neighboring state, Gary Johnson, running a Libertarian Party presidential candidacy.

The armchair pundits in Washington and New York typically write off these latter two factors as forces destined to aid the president’s reelection campaign. The conventional wisdom is rooted in oversimplified cartoons and caricatures of voter preferences. Essentially, the idea is that the marijuana measure will bring out liberal, Obama-loving hippies, yuppies and crunchies from Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins, while the libertarian candidate’s campaign will siphon conservative votes that would otherwise go to Mitt Romney, thus making Johnson the Republican “version of Ralph Nader,” as the New York Times predictably projects. But that kind of hackneyed red-versus-blue story line – so prevalent in the national media echo chamber – ignores how these forces are playing out on the ground.

This is particularly true considering the intersection of the pot initiative and the Johnson campaign. Despite the punditocracy’s narratives to the contrary, the former New Mexico governor has already been taking as much – or more – support away from Obama in Colorado as he has been from Romney, according to polls. And Johnson’s anti-Obama effect could become much more pronounced in the next few weeks, thanks to how his supporters are deftly leveraging all hoopla around the marijuana initiative to sharpen their candidate’s appeal and message to disaffected Democrats.

This message is not just word-of-mouth anymore; it has been elevated to the big leagues by a new voter outreach campaign. Indeed, a new automated telephone call focused on the pot measure and playing to liberal disappointment is right now hitting Democratic households in Colorado. Here’s what the message says (you can listen to the full audio below):

Hello fellow Democrat. Like you I was thrilled to vote for Barack Obama in 2008. In 2008, candidate Obama promised not to use the Justice Department to prosecute medical marijuana in states where it was legal. But the real Obama did just that, more than doubling prosecutions, putting people in prisons and shutting down medical marijuana facilities in Colorado. That’s not the change you wanted on health freedom. But you can still be a force for hope and change by voting for Gary Johnson.

Officially funded by the Libertas Institute50, the message is accurate in its factual broad strokes. Candidate Obama did explicitly promise to restrain the Justice Department from prosecuting medical marijuana offenses in medical marijuana states, and President Obama has nonetheless overseen an intense Justice Department crackdown on medical marijuana in those states, directly contradicting his pledge.

Sirota, however, is skeptical of any larger plan:

Is this a brilliant GOP conspiracy theory? In other words, is the libertarian candidate deliberately trying to help Romney, as Obama partisans will no doubt grouse? Almost certainly not, as Johnson is no fan of Romney, to say the least. He has run a consistently honest and principled campaign that has been equal – and equally harsh – in its criticism of both parties.

When I first read Ames’ piece I thought the most important revelation was the simple collection of very unsavoury characters that this supposedly clean hands candidate had gathered round him. That there was some larger goal involved in the candidacy, I waved away. I am now, however, of a different mind.

I should preface the following by saying that I am not a conspiracy theorist: I believe that the evidence overwhelmingly supports the thesis that Oswald killed Kennedy. Shakespeare is not Marlowe or anyone else, but Shakespeare. The harmful propaganda surrounding the illuminati are insightfully discussed and utterly destroyed in Umberto Eco’s Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, Arthur Goldwag’s The New Hate, and Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch. I do not, however, think the third party thesis requires a terribly complex or all-encompassing conspiracy.

To address Sirota’s point, I don’t think that it necessary to dispute Johnson being at the same skeptical nexus as Nader, a man critical of both parties. I slightly dispute this idea – I do not remember Nader being as Janus-like as Johnson, who is both critical of america’s war machine and at the same argues for strike teams to Uganda, commits himself to something like continued drone warfare, and promises that if Iran were to test a nuclear warhead it would be wiped from the face of the earth51 – but I can concede this point without issue. I do not think that Mr. Sirota would contest the point that despite Nader’s bipartisan criticism, he ultimately had a far greater impact on votes cast to Gore than to Bush, that this asymmetry exists, despite Nader’s equal animus of both parties.

So, I think it can be agreed that in a tight election like 2012, a candidate equivalent to Nader would be very useful to someone who wanted Romney to win. The only issue then is whether the candidate must necessarily be a knowing participant, and I do not see why this is necessary at all. All that is required is that he take certain positions which will cause some to vote for him, rather than Obama, and we have a Romney victory. There is also, when invoking the word “conspiracy” the suggestion of a large group of people being involved, and I think this is equally unnecessary. All this tactic requires is the money needed to run a campaign, which is an extraordinarily small amount given what some billionaires were spending on anti-Obama ads, and a few people who might conceive a campaign and lightly design it52.

Who might implement such a campaign? A man who managed to get minimum wage legislation voted down because democrats could be made to misperceive that prominent democratic politicians were against it. A man who once placed a third party candidate on the ballot to win a liberal state for a republican president. A woman who has been involved in the creation of a seniors lobby which in actual fact lobbied for the interests of prescription medicine, receiving no donations from seniors. A woman who was involved in trying to take over California NOW, so that a progressive logo might be used to deceptively endorse anti-progressive, anti-liberal causes and candidates. Someone who is expert in achieving a political end by causing the voter to think that a group is for their interests, when this group is being manipulated so that this voter’s very interests are defeated. People speak of conspiracy, but why would a false front presidential candidate be any different from a false front lobby like the 60 Plus Association or USA Next? All it would require is a slightly vain candidate (and what presidential candidate is not slightly vain?) lacking the necessary funds for a run for office, which it would then receive from certain large donors – donors who might well appear to be supporting a libertarian candidate, but whose purpose was instead to elect Romney. This does not require the involvement of anyone else, the RNC, the supreme court, anybody – just a few political consultants and a chunk of money. What is so complicated about that? How is that any more difficult than the creation of USA Next or the takeover of a long-time feminist organization?

Two notable details might be mentioned in the final chapter of this story. The first are possible financial irregularities on the part of the Johnson campaign. The Johnson PAC, Our America Initiative, the one whose registration carries the names of Otis and Lacy, was suspended after it failed to file quarterly reports with the FEC listing its donors: “Johnson’s PAC suspended for financial reporting violation” by Peter St. Cyr. Given that it doesn’t show up on any FEC filings, or such sunlight sites as Open Secrets, this violation may have kept them from ever continuing in the general election. There is also the question raised in “Complaint filed with FEC questions Johnson campaign’s use of funds” by Maggie Haberman, for which I was unable to find any answer: who paid off Johnson’s primary debts, making it easier to run in the general election? However, the main focus of this piece is an FEC complaint filed by Addison Smith, arguing that Johnson’s monthly expenditure listings, which did not distinguish between expenditures for media, political advisers, and travel, violated FEC regulations53. A trouble-making email sent out that month raised a similar question, which tried to make the case that money was not being spent on media, but on advisers – that the campaign was a scheme to simply move money from donors to the consultants.

The major article that deals with this email, “Johnson Allies Reject Spending Charges” by Rosie Gray, makes clear that media buys were being made – though it also stresses that the campaign money seems to be going entirely to companies associated with campaign advisers. The article cites an expense for media which is the same mix of media buys, campaign travel, and, presumably, adviser pay, mentioned in the FEC complaint – all three mixed in a sum going to an entity labeled “Political Advisors”54. The Johnson post-election filing had $140K going for media, “FEC Disbursements by Purpose”, and almost twice as much, $277K, going to political advisers, “FEC Disbursements by Payee”. Both charges, the FEC complaint and the email, were dismissed by the campaign as political attacks – Addison Smith, who filed the FEC complaint, is a long-time republican, though without visible associations to the Romney campaign55. Roger Stone emphasized that he was working for the campaign on a volunteer, pro bono basis56. This may well be true; however, it should be stressed that Stone worked pro bono on Carl Paladino’s 2010 campaign for governor, a campaign whose expenses were ably dissected in “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link], by Wayne Barrett, where he discovered huge sums being paid out to Stone associates Dianne Thorne and Michael Caputo, as well as payments associated with Stone from a previous lobbying effort57. He further cites the accounts given by Larry Klayman, the anti-gay hardline evangelical who ran for the Florida Senate with Stone as a consultant; Klayman says that Stone barely did any work and bled his campaign dry58. Caputo was not with the 2012 Johnson presidential campaign, but Thorne was59. We may see here the possible mix of venality and practical purpose exploiting donors who think they are giving to the libertarian cause, when they are contributing to something entirely different, the salaries of sundry advisers, and not for the end purpose of furthering libertarian ideas, but to split the vote to obtain a republican victory. This might be seen as part of a larger tradition, brilliantly described by Rick Perlstein in “The Long Con: Mail-order conservatism”, with enthusiastic conservative donors gouged again and again, with only a fraction of the money sent to a conservative cause going to the cause itself, the healthy majority ending up in the grabby hands of consultants far richer than the donors will ever be. We might see this as well in the possible exploitation of the minutemen group, the money of the anti-immigrant faithful not going to any border fence, but to a clump of groups which all have one woman as their contact, the addresses of these generous zealots soon taken into their maw as well, for even more donations.

This, of course, returns us to our main character, and the other strange detail of this final part of the story. It comes from the twitter profile of Otis. She lists herself as owner of two businesses, one of which is American Caging. She lists, however, something else:

Maureen Otis - Mystery

The blacked out portions, by the way, are family details only of relevance to Otis herself. If Ms. Otis ever reads this, and wonders why I took that step, it’s because of a concept unfamiliar to her, of having a conscience.

Back to the chase: in her profile, she says she’s the treasurer for Restore America’s Voice PAC. This is a PAC that worked exclusively against Obama. Why is someone who sponsors a third-party candidate, also treasurer of a PAC that works against only one of his opponents? This is leaving aside that many of the non-profit advocacy groups for which Otis is legal contact are entirely counter to libertarian ideas on immigration, whether it’s Californians for Population Stabilization, or the MCDC, for which she is not only legal contact, but on whose board she served. I ask these questions, wondering who is this mystery woman, and what is the mystery which surrounds her: was there an actual attempt this year to employ a third party stooge in order to elect a republican president? Here is a more mundane, rhetorical one: would anyone consider such behavior more outrageous than the voter intimidation of True the Vote, or the deceptions of USA Next?

I move towards a conclusion, with a piece on the “North Decoder” website from a year ago, “The Koch Brothers’ Slow Poisoning of America” by Chet (just like Nico, you get a pseudonymous four letters, and that’s it). The author of this piece writes passionately, despairingly, of the way press coverage of North Dakota is slowly being taken over by outside, well-funded conservative interests:

A story in the Grand Forks Herald originated with a Plains Daily blog post about the University of North Dakota using a UND Foundation aircraft to ferry people to and from Bismarck to (among other things) testify on issues relevant to the University. Plains Daily’s capitol beat “reporter” — the author of the UND plane story — is Kate Bommarito. Before becoming a fake “journalist,” Kate worked on Kevin Cramer’s 2010 Republican Party campaign for the U.S. House. She has been active in North Dakota Republican Party politics for quite a while. Her husband, I’m told, is Mike Bommarito, a former ND GOP executive director. When Kevin Cramer’s campaign for Congress was caught buying support of delegates to the GOP convention by paying convention fees a couple years ago, the Bommarito family name came up as the conduit for some of those payments.

He traces the source of the funds to an entity located in a small-town mini-mall:

One of the shops in the mini-mall is the Rushmore Mountain Taffy and Gift Shop. Like virtually every other retail store in town, the taffy shop closes when the Musical shuts down for the “Winter” right around Labor Day and will open back up again some time just before Memorial Day.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the taffy shop from the outside — or inside, for that matter — but for several years now, it has been the legal home to “The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity,” a multi-million dollar right-wing non-profit set up for the sole purpose of facilitating indoctrination of Americans through the creative use of old-fashioned, right-wing misinformation and fake, slanted “news.”

The Franklin Center (FC) is a non-profit organization that uses a “post office box” in the United Parcel Service Store in Bismarck. The UPS Store provides a mail forwarding service to the folks at the Franklin Center. But the taffy shop, until very recently, was FC’s “official” mailing address. North Dakota law requires nonprofits to have a “physical address,” too, so citizens have a place to go if they want to ask for a copy of records nonprofits have to make available for public inspection, or to serve court papers on the organization.

Yes, dear reader, you know what comes next.

The Franklin Center was officially incorporated in North Dakota in January of 2009. The Secretary of State (SOS) 2009 filings list a Texas attorney’s address — actually a “caging” operation — as the organization’s mailing address and the local UPS Store mail-forwarding service PO Box as it’s physical address

The Texas lawyer/caging operation, coincidentally, also does legal work for “Club for Growth,” Alan Keyes’ “Declaration Foundation,” the CPAC sponsoring “Young Americas Foundation,” the “Minuteman” militia people, the “Traditional Values Coalition,” and a whole host of mostly far right-wing fringe organizations. It appears the lawyer — Maureen E. Otis — operates her law office out of an organization she leads called “American Caging.

The Franklin Center raised about $3 million in its first year of operation, 2009.

You read that right.

For you headline-writing copy editors out there, here’s your headline:

“THREE MILLION DOLLARS raised by a little North Dakota non-profit based in a taffy shop in tiny town of Medora”

I conclude in this fashion, excerpts from a well-written piece by a pseudonymous writer ending in a picturesque taffy shop, to make clear a line of demarcation. It demonstrates that to control the news, all that is necessary is for the structures of journalism to decay and finally die, just as institutions that help the elderly, the vulnerable, and the worst off have been allowed to die. There have been two major profiles of Gary Johnson that I know of, which appeared in a prestige publication: “Pipe Dreamer” by Molly Ball and “The Zen of Gary Johnson”. Both are entirely light-weight, touching on none of the less sanguine details of Johnson’s political life or his campaign. To read about the seamy underbelly of political life, you would have to go to the fringes of the internet, the NSFW Corporation, the North Decoder website, or, I humbly submit, a post from an obscure blog that is something like this. I do not consider this media indifference some part of any larger conspiracy – it is simply a condition of mainstream journalism now that the most pressing questions are not asked. They leave it to others to shine a lantern on a nest of rats. And they consign themselves to irrelevance.

(Since publication, some edits have been made for aesthetic purposes; the section, with accompanying footnote, on Roger Stone’s involvement with the 2004 Al Sharpton campaign was added after initial posting; so was the footnote featuring a brief interview excerpt with Jim Gilchrist. The section on the takeover of the Sierra Club was added on January 3rd, 2013. On January 5th, the material on the strange financial details of Roger Stone’s past campaigns was added. The detail that Stone publicly admitted to destroying the reform party, and the video clip where he made the admission, were added on January 14th. On April 10, 2015, this post underwent a session of copy editing. Originally, this post listed “Tim Phillips” as a nominee to be an Attorney for the Justice Department; on April 18, 2015, this was corrected to “Tim Griffin”.)


1 From “Slate Nailer: Conservative James Lacy plays turncoat to sway elections” by Nick Schou:

Just before Election Day, [James] Lacy unleashed a series of slate mailings urging Santa Monica residents to vote for prominent Democrats who support liberal causes such as abortion rights and education. The same mailers also directed them to vote “NO on JJ,” a vote to kill the city’s living-wage ordinance.

Designed to lift minimum-wage workers out of poverty and reduce the burden on city social-welfare funds, JJ would have required downtown and coastal Santa Monica employers earning more than $5 million per year to pay employees $12.50 per hour, or $10.50 per hour plus health-care benefits. Although it led in polls up to Election Day, JJ lost by a tiny margin on Nov. 5.

The fact that registered Democrats in Santa Monica were flooded with thousands of misleading mailers in the last days of the race seems to be the best explanation for why that happened. One questionable mailer endorsed two prominent Democrats, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) and Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D-Woodland Hills). In massive bold type at the bottom of the page, the mailer states, “NO on JJ.”

While an asterisk next to those words informed voters that the mailer was paid for by an organization called Democratic Voters Ballot Guide, neither Waxman, Pavley nor the Democratic Party-all of whom publicly supported JJ-had anything to do with the mailer or the Democratic Voters Ballot Guide, which didn’t exist until a few weeks before the election. In fact, hotel owners paid for the mailer, and the so-called Democratic Voters Ballot Guide was just a front group consisting of a pair of career right-wing political consultants, including Lacy.

Lacy was also behind two other anti-Measure JJ mailers. One said, “Attention Pro-Choice Voters” and announced that “Santa Monica’s pro-choice leaders agree: no on Measure JJ.” A third bore the caption “Important Santa Monica Issues for Women, Our Young & Our Poor” and urged recipients to vote no on Measure JJ.

2 From the site Open Secrets, Top Organizations Disclosing Donations to 60 Plus Assn, 2012.

From the site Talking Points Memo, “Arizona Dark Money Group Gave Lavishly To Other Groups”, by Eric Lach:

The Center to Protect Patient Rights (CPPR), the secretive Arizona dark money group tied to the movement of millions of dollars between political nonprofits, gave almost $15 million in 2011 to a number of groups that spent heavily on political ads in 2012, according to IRS documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The CPPR, run by former congressional aide Sean Noble, spent $23.2 million in 2011, with $14.8 million given in grants to 19 other nonprofits. Bloomberg has previously reported that the CPPR contributed $55.4 million to other nonprofit political groups in 2009 and 2010.

From “Kochs brothers’ plan for 2012: raise $88 million” by Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Smith in Politico:

Sean Noble, another top Koch operative, has been hired by Americans for Limited Government, another group that sources say received donations from Koch conference attendees for its efforts to attack Democrats during the 2010 midterm campaign.

3 Open Secrets, Top Organizations Disclosing Donations to 60 Plus Assn, 2012.

4 From “‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ for Monday, August 10, 2009”:

60 Plus is well-known in Republican and conservative circles. And like other corporate-funded P.R. operations, it often takes on causes that you wouldn’t logically connect to their stated purpose. The 60 Plus Association, which again, bills itself as a seniors advocacy group, they took on a subject they want us to believe is near and dear to the hearts of seniors.

Back in 2003, it was the issue of nuclear waste, urging Congress to, quote, “move forward and approve the safe storage of nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain.” Because seniors love nuclear waste being stored in Nevada. Old people love that.

5 From “High drug prices return as issue that stirs voters” by Thomas Edsall, originally published in the Washington Post:

In addition to lobbying, the drug industry spent more than $100 million in 1999 and 2000 to create a supposed grass-roots group called Citizens for Better Medicare. Led by PhRMA’s former marketing director, Tim Ryan, CBM flooded the airwaves with commercials accusing congressional Democrats of “playing politics” by backing legislation to reduce drug prices.

Also, the industry awarded unrestricted “educational grants” — declining to disclose the exact amounts — to two supportive groups, United Seniors and 60-Plus. In this election cycle, United Seniors has bought $12 million worth of ads, according to consultants working for the Democratic Party, while 60-Plus has spent $595,000 on radio ads in seven battleground congressional districts.

6 Family Tree Maker Site for Maurine Elizabeth Otis

7 Cancer Schmancer Foundation Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis PC
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
589 8th Ave, 6th Floor

The Cancer Schmancer website, prominently featuring Drescher is here.

8 Dress For Success Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
32 East 31st Street
7th Floor
New York NY 10016

Purpose Description

The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

The filing for Dress for Success Worldwide in Texas, again by Otis, has Bobbi Brown as CEO and founder: Business Dress For Success Worldwide

9 “National Women’s History Museum Makes Little Progress After 16 Years” by Andrea Stone and Christina Wilkie gives an excellent account of the museum’s troubles.

10 Ultimate Memorial, part of the Houston Chronicle:

Goh Conservative PAC – Louiepac, Inc., 4850 Wright Road Suite 168

11 Club for Growth Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
2001 L Street NW
Suite 600

12 Richard Norman Company Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
c/o Maureen Otis
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
Two Riverbend
44084 Riverside Parkway, Ste 350

13 Jewish Voice Ministries International Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, PC
4850 Wright Rd, Suite 168

Street Address:
10850 N 24th Ave

Purpose Description

Jewish Voice Ministries International is dedicated to bringing the Gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile throughout the world. The Good News is proclaimed through television, radio and large scale Messianic Outreach Festivals. This is followed up by planting new and strengthening existing congregations to nurture and disciple new believers. We also partner with other ministries to establish and operate Messianic Bible Schools to train leadership for Jewish Ministries.

14 Corrie Ten Boom Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Other Names Used

Christian Women of the Year
Jerusalem Prayer Team
Save Jerusalem

Mailing Address:
C/O Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
1527 W. State Hwy 114,
Suite 500

The founder of the Jerusalem Prayer team, Michael Evans, is a prominent christian zionist known for taking a hardline stance on middle east issues. From “How Israeli PM wooed, and lost, Christian dollars”, by Adam Entous and Ari Rabinovitch, in Reuters:

[Ehud] Olmert [former prime minister of Israel] was long a familiar speaker on the U.S. fundraising lunch and dinner circuit. Public records show that, for example, he attended a series of three meetings in churches organised by a group known as the Jerusalem Prayer Team, whose founder Mike Evans’s stated mission is “to protect the Jewish people … until Israel is secure and the redeemer comes to Zion”.

From 2002 to 2004, church fundraisers organised by the Jerusalem Prayer Team, including the one in Dallas, raised $239,300 for the New Jerusalem Foundation. NJF records say it spent its money on parks, charity meals and other programmes.

In January, Evans made clear his view of Annapolis [the Annapolis peace talks between Olmert and the palestinian leadership]: “I was completely outraged when I heard that Ehud Olmert, whom I have known for 26 years, stood next to President Bush and declared that he would work to fulfill the final status solution.

“This means the division of Jerusalem,” he wrote on his Web site. “I will do everything in my power to resist that.”

15 Policy Issues Institute Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Other Names Used

Impeach Obama Campaign
United States Investigative Unit
US Health Congress
White House Watch, The

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, PC
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
30011 Ivy Glenn Dr
Ste 223

This is the office address of James Lacy.

16 Christian Research Institute, Inc. Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report

Mailing Address:
C/O Maureen E.Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
6295 Blakeney Park Drive
CHARLOTTE NC 28277-7007

A description of the Christian Research Institute can be found at wikipedia:

The establishment of CRI in 1960 is closely linked to Walter Martin. It represents one of the pioneering organizations in what is called the Christian countercult movement, but also relates to the wider history of Evangelical Christian apologetics in the mid-Twentieth century.

The christian countercult movement is described in this wikipedia entry:

The Christian countercult movement is a social movement of Christian ministries and individual Christian countercult activists who oppose religious sects thought to either partially abide or do not at all abide by the teachings that are written within the Bible. These religious sects are also known among Christians as cults. They are also known as discernment ministries.

17 From National Vaccine Information Center Charitable Solicitations Program Charity Profile Report:

Mailing Address:
C/o Law Offices Of Maureen E. Otis, P.C.
4850 Wright Road, Suite 168

Street Address:
407 Church Street
Suite H

The National Vaccination Information Center is described in “The ad that could help fuel a health crisis”, from Salon, by Rahul Parikh:

Among other things, the founders of NVIC seem to suggest vaccines are toxic, full of ingredients that will harm your child, none of which has ever proved to do so. Founded in the 1980s, NVIC is the granddaddy of anti-vaccine groups (though they go to great lengths to claim they are not). In the words of Michael Specter, journalist and author of “Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens our Lives,” NVIC is “the most powerful anti-vaccine organization in America, and its relationship with the U.S. government consists almost entirely of opposing federal efforts aimed at vaccinating children.” Taking what NVIC says about vaccines at face value is akin to believing Joe Camel when he tells you that smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer. The ad was created in conjunction with, the website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, another anti-vaccinationist who espouses other out-of-step ideas. For more details see his blog on – where else – the Huffington Post.

The NVIC is also mentioned in “Swine Flu Revives Debate About Vaccines” by Jennifer Steinhauer.

18 A good introduction to this group might be “What the heck was that population stabilization ad in last night’s debate all about?” at Talking Points Memo.

19 Bizapedia entry for The Society for Truth and Justice; Find the Data entry for Patriot PAC and information on Patriot PAC.

20 A good introduction to True the Vote can be found in “Who Created the Voter Fraud Myth?” by Jane Mayer.

21 A report on True the Vote activities can be found at ABC News, with their report, “Is True the Vote Intimidating Minority Voters From Going to the Polls?”; the rejection of True the Vote as poll-watchers in Franklin County, Ohio can be found in “Tea party-linked poll watchers rejected in Ohio county”:

“The Franklin County Board of Elections did not allow Election Day polling location observer appointments filed by the True the Vote group,” said board spokesman Ben Pisctelli in a statement. “The appointments were not properly filed and our voting location managers were instructed not to honor any appointment on behalf of the True the Vote group.”

There were charges yesterday that the candidates’ names had either been falsified or merely copied on forms requesting observer status for the True the Vote at several Franklin County polling places. Many are in predominantly African American neighborhoods.

Elections Director William A. Anthony Jr. said the group may be investigated for possibly falsifying documents after today’s election. The forms themselves warn that elections falsification is a fifth-degree felony.

22 From “True the Vote observers barred from Franklin County polling places”:

One person told the elections board that she attended True the Vote training sessions and the observers were instructed to use cameras to intimidate voters when they enter the polling place, record their names on tablet computers and send them to a central location, and attempt to stop questionably qualified voters before they could get to a voting machine.

23 From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Ruckus on the Right”:

[Jim] Gilchrist and [Chris] Simcox publicly battled for control and camera time during the original Minuteman Project, when Simcox’s high-handed leadership style earned him the sarcastic sobriquet, “The Little Prince.” But following the conclusion of the month-long “citizens border patrol” operation in Arizona last April, the co-founders appeared to arrange an amicable parting and division of the public relations spoils. Gilchrist kept the Minuteman Project name and announced he was handing over “border watch” operations to Simcox, who would manage them as president of a new group, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

24 From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Ruckus on the Right”:

The pivot point on which [Chris] Simcox’s own kind turned against him is his refusal to account for the $1.6 to $1.8 million in private donations he estimates MCDC raised, including $600,000 for the “Minuteman Border Fence,” — a slick fundraising campaign with a stated goal of $55 million. Simcox pledged the money raised by the campaign would go to build a high-tech security barrier along 70 miles of private ranchland on the Arizona border. Mass-mailed MCDC solicitations and full-page color advertisements in The Washington Times since mid-April promoted the Minuteman Border Fence as an “Israeli-style” barrier “based on the fences used in Gaza and the West Bank.” Fundraising illustrations depict a 6-foot trench and coils of concertina wire backed by a 15-foot steel-mesh fence crowned with bulletproof security cameras. Estimated cost: $150 per foot.

Construction began Memorial Day weekend with much fanfare. Since then, MCDC volunteers erected just over two miles of five-strand barbed wire attached to short metal posts. What they built is a standard cattle fence, costing about $1.50 per foot, or about one one-hundredth the cost of the advertised “Israeli-style” barrier.

So far, in other words, the Minuteman Border Fence hasn’t come to much. “It wouldn’t stop a tricycle,” American Border Patrol’s Glenn Spencer posted in a recent online tirade

25 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

At press time, the MCDC had yet to begin constructing the “Israeli-style” fence. Also, [Chris] Simcox has denied all requests by current and former MCDC members and donors as well as journalists to release any MCDC financial records. He will not say where the money is, how much has been spent, or for what, and he lashes out at anyone inside or outside his organization who dares question his honesty or authority. Gary Cole, the MCDC’s former national director of operations, said he was fired last summer for “asking too many questions about the money.”

26 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

In his late July statement, released the same week as The Washington Times story, Simcox claimed “all donations which have been received have been recorded, processed, and banked by a highly reputable and responsible caging company which specializes in nonprofit accountability. Funds are safely and appropriately held in a secured bank account, overseen by a certified public accountant and a lawyer, disbursed by an authorized escrow agent only against approved, invoiced expenses.”

The “highly reputable and responsible” accounting company hired by MCDC to oversee donations is Houston-based American Caging, Inc. Maureen Otis, president of American Caging, released a statement confirming “since the day MCDC was incorporated, my company has acted as the comptroller and escrow agent for MCDC.”

27 From “Border group’s finances a secret” by the Washington Times:

A Texas firm that manages hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps says it has not been authorized to divulge a detailed accounting of the funds, despite assurances by the MCDC’s top official that it would do so.

Maureen E. Otis — president of American Caging Inc. in Stafford, Texas, an agency hired to collect, deposit and disburse donations to the civilian border-patrol group — told The Washington Times that neither MCDC President Chris Simcox nor the group’s board of directors had given her permission to “disclose any numbers.”

28 Alan Keyes and the Minutemen Morass from the Non-Profit Quarterly:

MCDC, for example, lists one Maureen Otis as its board secretary. Otis is president of a firm called American Caging, sharing MCDC’s address (from its 990), and MCDC paid American Caging $15,202 for “caging fees.”

29 Alan Keyes and the Minutemen Morass from the Non-Profit Quarterly:

Apparently, the Declaration Alliance has been a funnel for resources going to MCDC. The most recent 990 of the Alliance, for example, reports $739,353 in “program services expenditures” in support of MCDC, plus a direct contribution to MCDC of another $112,500. The Web site of MCDC claims that it is a project of the Declaration Alliance, and the first and last MCDC 990 reports $418,493 in revenue (almost $1.2 million less than Simcox’s public estimate of the public support his organization had received), including the Declaration Alliance’s $112,500, but the 990 made no reference to the Declaration Alliance’s other programmatic involvement or its expenditures on behalf of the Minuteman project.

While the Declaration Alliance is a “civic public policy and issues advocacy organization that aggressively defends the Founding principles of the American Republic,” its Web site appears to be more like an Alan Keyes presidential campaign arm. The heading at the top of the page is a link to “Alan Keyes on the 2008 Election,” which redirects to the site of a group called Renew America, another tax-exempt entity founded by Keyes. The Renew America Web site leads with a link to a group called “We Need Alan Keyes for President,” which calls itself a PAC. The Declaration Alliance Web site also devotes a page to Keyes’s share of the vote in the 2000 Republican primaries.

30 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

This omission of design specifics may have been the product of advice [Chris] Simcox received from Diener Consultants, one of the country’s largest right-wing political consulting and fundraising machines. At around the same time Simcox broke off from Gilchrist to form MCDC, he contracted with Diener, which is based in Chicago and led by Phillip Sheldon, son of Traditional Values Coalition founder and vitriolic gay-basher Rev. Louis Sheldon.

From “Border group’s finances a secret” by the Washington Times:

American Caging also handles other clients aligned with MCDC, Mr. Keyes and the Alliance organizations, including Diener Consulting Inc., which serves as the Minuteman group’s public-relations arm, as it did in Mr. Keyes’ unsuccessful presidential and senatorial campaigns; and Renew America, a fundraising organization founded by Mr. Keyes that provides a link for donations to MCDC through Declaration Alliance.

31 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

The younger Sheldon is known for brokering the ghoulish deal in which Response Unlimited, a direct-mail marketing firm, obtained a list of donors to Terry Schiavo’s legal fund from the brain-dead woman’s parents several days before her death in March 2005. Earlier this year, Response Unlimited — “the nation’s best and most comprehensive source of mailing lists for conservative and Christian mailers and telemarketers” — began offering for sale a list of 61,000 Minuteman Civil Defense Corps donors at a price of $120 per thousand names.

32 From “Border group’s finances a secret” by the Washington Times:

Other American Caging clients include Response Unlimited, which makes mailing lists — including the MCDC membership — available to conservative mailers and telemarketers and has an “exclusive contract” with Declaration Foundation; and, which raised $500,000 for Mr. [Alan] Keyes’ 2004 senatorial campaign and helps raise Minuteman donations through a link on its Web page to Declaration Alliance.

33 From “Ruckus on the Right”:

The “highly reputable and responsible” accounting company hired by MCDC to oversee donations is Houston-based American Caging, Inc. Maureen Otis, president of American Caging, released a statement confirming “since the day MCDC was incorporated, my company has acted as the comptroller and escrow agent for MCDC.” But that may do little to alleviate the concerns of MCDC donors, since American Caging apparently has some trouble keeping its own books in order. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts office lists the status of American Caging Inc. as “not in good standing” because it “has not satisfied all state tax requirements.”

34 The details involving this split, including the presence of Otis, have almost entirely disappeared from national consciousness six years later. An interview with Gilchrist by Conor Friedersdorf does not bring up Simcox or Otis, and Gilchrist does not bring it up either, at least not explicitly, though he may making implicit reference in his last answer in the published interview. From “Friday Interview: What the Minuteman Project Taught Its Founder”:


What if someone came to you and said, Mr. Gilchrist, I’m starting a grassroots effort on behalf of a cause that’s dear to me. Do you have any advice?


Be extremely careful of volunteers who say they want to help you because they’re passionate about your cause. Especially if there is fundraising involved. What I have found is that the same persons will attempt to steal your organization to get access to your money. I’m told that’s commonplace in a lot of activist groups. And be wary of some extremists trying to infiltrate the organization to exploit it for their own philosophical advantage, and ultimately destroying it.

Another group… had a rebellion in its ranks due to the fact that the fundraising company it was using was keeping all the money and not using it to bring people to the border. I think they made about $10 million over three or four years. Apparently not a penny of it got to people on the border. There are various reasons for people to get involved in activism. This is not just the immigration issue. It could be the abortion issue, the religious issue, whatever. Number one, the fundraisers want to make money off it, it’s not about the issue to them. It’s really about making money.

Gilchrist would be fired by his own Minuteman project in 2007, with the issue again missing funds; this episode in described in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Jim Gilchrist Fired By Minuteman Project” by David Holt:

The Minuteman Project, one of the country’s largest, richest and most influential nativist extremist groups, is in a state of crisis.

Its founder, Jim Gilchrist, was fired in February by members of the group’s board of directors amidst swirling allegations of embezzlement, gross mismanagement and fraud.

35 From the Chicago Tribune, “The business of influence in Washington”:

[Charles] Jarvis took USA Next to a different level when he assumed control in 2001. The board was stocked with influential Republican lobbyists and consultants with strong ties to the GOP congressional leadership and the White House.

A former aide to Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) who also served in the Reagan and Bush administrations, Jarvis was well-positioned for his organization to benefit from Republican control in Washington.

From Talking Points Memo:

You can pick up the story on the United Seniors money mill from this July 2003 consumer bulletin from, of all places, the dreaded AARP.

One thing we learn from the AARP bulletin is that they apparently picked up USANext chief Charlie Jarvis from that notorious Spongebob-basher radical cleric James Dobson. Before he got the USANext gig, Jarvis was an executive vice president of Dobson’s group Focus on the Family.

36 From the Chicago Tribune, “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

United Seniors, the name by which USA Next is formally incorporated in Virginia, was started in 1991 by Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative and direct-mail specialist.

In its first 10 years, United Seniors was a modest force at most, taking in $8 million to $11 million and spending nearly 50 percent of contributions on fundraising. It relied heavily on direct-mail solicitation of members and whatever larger donations it could attract, and it operated for most of its existence at a deficit.

37 From the Chicago Tribune, “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

In fiscal year 2001, records show, PhRMA gave United Seniors $1.5 million, 100 times the amount it had given the previous year. Pfizer gave $25,000 in each of those two years. PhRMA does not dispute the accuracy of the records.

In the next two years, just as Congress and the White House worked out details for a prescription drug benefit for Medicare, United Seniors received $24.8 million from a single source, records show. A redacted copy of the tax filing obscures the name of the donor, other than the first letter, “P,” in 2003. A $20.1 million donation was reported in 2002 from a single source, but that donor’s name is completely blacked out.

Asked whether PhRMA was the donor, Ken Johnson, a spokesman for the trade group, said, “I’m not confirming it or denying it.”

38 From “Bush’s Secret Stash” by Nicholas Confessore, in the Washington Monthly:

Then there’s the benignly-named United Seniors Association (USA), which serves as a soft-money slush fund for a single GOP-friendly industry: pharmaceuticals. USA claims a nationwide network of more than one million activists, but, just like Progress for America, listed zero income from membership dues in its most recent available tax return.

39 From “Bush’s Secret Stash” by Nicholas Confessore, in the Washington Monthly:

During the 2002 elections, with an “unrestricted educational grant” from the drug industry burning a hole in its pocket, the group [United Seniors Association, or USA Next] spent roughly $14 million–the lion’s share of its budget–on ads defending Republican members of Congress for their votes on a Medicare prescription-drug bill.

40 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

Now the group [United Seniors Association, or USA Next] has clawed its way into the Social Security debate with AARP as the primary adversary. To make its case, [Charles] Jarvis has adopted the scorching tactics of negative campaign advertising and employed some of the best practitioners of political dark arts to do it.

His group has benefited from donations and consultant work from operatives and donors associated with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

“I’m trying to kill, destroy the bad public policy of AARP,” Jarvis said.

41 From Talking Points Memo (though some of the links for this seven year old post are broken, I have included them anyway):

Hmmm … So is USANext, aka United Seniors Association, aka Americans Lobbying Against Rationing of Medical Care, USA, really just a Republican party front operation operating at the behest of Karl Rove?

Well, let’s see.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a rating and reporting bureau for public charities and nonprofits, notes that one of United Seniors Association’s (USA) “affiliates” is O’Neill Marketing Company (OMC).

Apparently, it’s a very tight affiliation since both are located at 3900 Jermantown Road, Suite 450. (USA lists Suite 450; OMC lists 450A).

42 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

For [Charles] Jarvis, it is a convenient convergence. “I’m very aggressively pro-free-market solutions,” he said in an interview at the group’s office just off Capitol Hill. “I am very aggressively finding people who agreed with our rock `n’ roll free-market approach.”

43 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

United Seniors has shown lethal capacity. But its most notorious effort–an ad that showed two photos, one of two men kissing and the other of a soldier, with the not-so-subtle message that AARP supported the gay couple and not the soldier–may also be one that costs it dearly.

The couple in the photo recently sued USA Next and a subcontractor for $25 million, alleging defamation.

44 From “The business of influence in Washington” by Michael Tackett:

The couple in the photo recently sued USA Next and a subcontractor for $25 million, alleging defamation. Jarvis said his only regret is that his subcontractor didn’t get a proper commercial release of the couple’s photo.

45 The Susan Faludi piece, “American Electra: Feminism’s Ritual Matricide” can be found in pdf format on the author’s site; it provides an in-depth examination of the struggle between an older leadership and younger feminists, providing the fascinating context of a century old tension between women of different ages, going back to the division between suffragettes and flappers, the struggle always having the persistent undertone of a fight between mothers and daughters; a short piece on Shelly Mandell introducing Sarah Palin in 2008 can be found at Jezebel: “NOW L.A. President Shelly Mandell Endorses McCain/Palin”.

46 Doug LaFollette, of course, ran unsuccessfully for governor against Scott Walker in the 2012 recall election; that he would be helpful to anti-immigrant forces in a takeover does not imply that he was a knowing participant – it might have been expected, for instance, that he would vote favourably for proposals that ostensibly dealt with the issues of finite resources and an ever expanding population, but were in fact anti-immigrant. This ruckus was brought up when LaFollette ran again in 2006 for secretary of state: “Sierra Club dust-up draws fresh flak” by Bill Lueders. A good overview of the other candidates can be found at “Hostile Takeover: Race, Immigration and the Sierra Club” by the Center for New Community. An article written at the time on the possible takeover of the Sierra Club is “Immigration dispute spawns factions, anger in Sierra Club” in The Seattle Times by Florangela Davila.

47 “John Tanton’s Private Papers Expose More Than 20 Years of Hate” goes into the depth of Tanton’s racist ideas, and “John Tanton’s Network” lists the groups associated with Tanton; both are at Southern Poverty Law Center. The Sierra Club’s election results from 1998 to 2012, showing the gains of the anti-immigrant faction and their eventual defeat can be found in pdf form at their site.

48 From a Reason magazine interview with Roger Stone:


Should the libertarian party continue to exist?


Well, as one who, I think, either helped kill, or killed the Reform party, because I believe they cost us the White House in 1992 and 1996…their lack of any ideology at all…it was a hodgepodge of vegetarians, goldbugs, and a few libertarians, and gun people, and gun control people, there was no consistency there other than people who couldn’t make it in any other party.

49 “The Sex Scandal That Put Bush in the White House” by Wayne Barrett explores the strange and labyrinthine sex scandal involving Pat Buchanan and the reform party. Barrett’s “Sleeping with the GOP: A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton’s Campaign” is the definitive piece on the strange alliance of Sharpton and Stone. I also heartily recommend Barrett’s other excellent work on Roger Stone, “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link] and “The (Roger) Stone Around Carl Paladino’s Neck” [archive link].

The opening sentence of “Sleeping with the GOP”:

Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative who led the mob that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount and helped make George W. Bush president in 2000, is financing, staffing, and orchestrating the presidential campaign of Reverend Al Sharpton.

On Sharpton’s attacks on the front-runner, designed by Stone himself:

While Bush forces like the Club for Growth were buying ads in Iowa assailing then front-runner Howard Dean, Sharpton took center stage at a debate confronting Dean about the absence of blacks in his Vermont cabinet. Stone told the Times that he “helped set the tone and direction” of the Dean attacks, while Charles Halloran, the Sharpton campaign manager installed by Stone, supplied the research. While other Democratic opponents were also attacking Dean, none did it on the advice of a consultant who’s worked in every GOP presidential campaign since his involvement in the Watergate scandals of 1972, including all of the Bush family campaigns.

Halloran works for free on the Sharpton campaign, just as Stone did for Johnson:

Halloran is a capable operative who claims he did advance work in the first Clinton campaign, and that he worked as a consultant in a statewide Democratic race in Georgia and as a volunteer for Al Gore during the recount battle. He has become so close to Stone over the last two years, however, that he stays at Stone’s 40 Central Park South apartment when he’s in New York working for Sharpton. Halloran and his wife celebrated Stone’s 50th birthday with him and his wife last year, and the two operatives talk virtually every day. By his own account, Halloran made so much money in the Golisano and Bermuda campaigns, he has so far worked for Sharpton since September 4 without receiving a single cent in pay.

The Golisano and Bermuda campaigns Halloran was involved in are described briefly:

Halloran was busy anyway with another Stone- arranged assignment-running the parliamentary campaign for the United Bermuda Party, ironically the white-led party seeking to unseat the island’s first black government. Halloran had also managed a Stone-run campaign in New York in 2002, spending nearly $65 million of billionaire Tom Golisano’s money and getting the Independence Party candidate a mere 14 percent of the vote in the gubernatorial race. Stone, whose firm represented the prior Bermuda government, did initial work in the 2003 race there and left, recommending Halloran.

On a possible future attempt to use Sharpton not simply to depress turn-out, but to split the vote:

Stone, whose Miami mob even jostled a visiting Sharpton during the recount, said recently in The American Spectator that if Sharpton were to run “as an independent” in the 2006 Hillary Clinton race, she would be “sunk,” implicitly suggesting that this operation may be a precursor to another Stone-Sharpton mission.

On the Sharpton campaign as part of a larger Bush strategy:

The Washington Post recently reported that the Bush campaign was planning a special advertising campaign targeting black voters, seeking as much as a quarter of the vote, and any Sharpton-connected outrage against the party could either lower black turnout in several key close states, or move votes to Bush. Both were widely reported as the consequences of Sharpton’s anti-Green rhetoric in 2001, [Mark Green, democratic candidate for New York City mayor, beat Fernando Ferrer, the Sharpton backed candidate in a bitter primary race]a result Sharpton celebrated both in his book and at a Bronx victory party on election night.

The attempt by the Sharpton campaign to qualify for matching funds by getting donations from at least twenty states, is notable for the presence of one figure. I bold the significant name:

In fact, the treasurer of the Klayman campaign, Paul Jensen, a top Bush administration transportation official, joined his wife, Pamela, in making $250 donations on December 30 to Sharpton, helping get him over the threshold in a third state. Jensen contributed to Sharpton, who favors a federal law certifying civil unions for homosexuals, even though the lawyer has filed suits in 16 states seeking to defrock Presbyterian ministers who’ve “violated their vows” by ordaining gays.

Jensen shows up again this year as Johnson’s attorney, sueing the FEC for not granting sufficient matching funds. From “Gary Johnson sues FEC for $750k” by Marc Caputo:

Johnson claims that, as a minor-party candidate, he’s entitled to a set amount of funds that are supposed to be distributed by the commission. The amount is set forth in a complicated federal formula that awards public funds to parties based on their candidates’ prior performances in other elections.

The federal law suggests in one place that a candidate such as Johnson “is eligible to receive pre-election payments” only if his party “received at least 5% but less than 25% of the total popular vote” in the prior election. But Johnson’s attorney, Paul Rolf Jensen said that 5 percent threshold doesn’t apply.

Total owed: $747,115.34, Johnson’s suit says.

A brief profile of Jensen, when he was in the news for defending a soldier who refused to follow orders because he did not believe the president was born in the United States, is “Attorney For Birther Army Doc Is Former GOP Staffer And Anti-Gay Crusader” by Justin Elliott.

Another piece, citing Barrett’s excellent work, which re-inforces the idea of Sharpton as a chess piece of a larger game is Joe Conason’s “A GOP trickster rents Al Sharpton “:

To anyone familiar with the buccaneering careers of Al Sharpton and Roger Stone, their convergence in the 2004 presidential campaign is not quite as “unlikely” as the New York Times suggested in a headline last week. Indeed, the alliance between the conservative consultant and the pompadoured preacher makes perfect sense.

Whatever excuse each man offers to justify their embarrassing embrace, Stone certainly serves the Republican party by sustaining and promoting Sharpton. Ever since the reverend announced his candidacy, right-leaning commentators have gleefully predicted that he will pose “a major threat” to the Democrats in 2004.

50 The Libertas Institute web site.

51 The examples of the strangely non-libertarian foreign policy of Gary Johnson are brought up in this blog’s “Conor Friedersdorf: An Almost Irrelevant Man”.

52 One might see evidence of this design in the answers Stone gave in a far too deferential sketch by Mark Warren, “Roger Stone to GOP: Payback’s a Bitch”; my bolds:

[Roger Stone:] “Johnson is polling at 9 percent in Arizona [according to PPP], and it’s all gonna come out of Romney’s hide, and he’s at 6 percent in Wisconsin (according to the Reason poll), which is all out of Obama’s hide. I am helping Gary figure out where to put his emphasis.

We may also see this as the motivation behind Stone’s criticism that Obama did not go far enough in his statements on gay marriage, quoted in a piece by Michael Musto, “Obama Actually Betrayed The Gay Marriage Cause”

That’s what one writer says.

Before you start screaming “foul” en route to resuming your gay-victory celebration, kindly check out the article by Roger Stone.

It makes some points.

“Once Gay Americans are through celebrating President Barack Obama’s ‘personal’ support of Gay marriage equality, they will learn that Obama’s ‘evolution’ changes nothing. Obama’s new position is a bullshit cop-out.

“This comes on the heels of a cynical Obama campaign pirouette where Team Obama trotted out first Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then Vice President ‘Crazy’ Joe Biden to say they support gay marriage and imply that the President would too–after the election.

“Now, incredibly, Obama says Gay marriage is a state issue. That’s what they used to say about abortion and before that, slavery. Now the President says he believes that gay couples should be able to marry but he doesn’t believe they have a right to do so. Obama would leave the question to the states–in other words–the status quo. This is like saying that public schools ought to be integrated but if the people of Mississippi disagree, well it’s up to them.

“If Obama believes that marriage equality is a constitutionally guaranteed civil right, as former Governor Gary Johnson does, than it can’t be abridged by the states. Forty-four states currently ban gay marriage. Under Obama millions of Americans in most states will continue be denied the right to marry the person of their choice.”

“Barack Obama is playing a cruel and cynical game with peoples lives and happiness. He did nothing to establish that gay marriage is a right yesterday.”

Given how starry eyed Musto has gotten over this pronouncement, it might behoove readers to look at the other side of the balance: that Stone worked as a consultant for the anti-gay fanatic Larry Klayman in his Senate campaign, and that Stone’s close associate is Paul Jensen, who filed suit to defrock presbyterian ministers who’ve been so audacious as to ordain gays, mentioned by Musto’s Village colleague, and definitive Roger Stone chronicler, Wayne Barrett, in “Sleeping with the GOP: A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton’s Campaign”. If that is not a cruel and cynical game to play with people’s lives and happiness, as well as a rankly hypocritical one, what isn’t?

53 In “Complaint filed with FEC questions Johnson campaign’s use of funds” by Maggie Haberman, the retiring of primary debt is dealt with in one sentence, “Others have raised issues about exactly how Johnson has paid off debt from when he ran for president as a Republican in the primary.”

On the FEC complaint, again from Haberman’s “Complaint”:

A Washington man who’s worked in Republican politics has filed a notarized complaint with the FEC about Libertarian presidential hopeful Gary Johnson’s campaign and the way his consultants have reported expenditures, raising questions about how huge chunks of the campaign’s coffers went to a single entity.

The complaint, viewable here, was filed by Addison Smith, a Republican who was part of the George W. Bush reelection effort in 2004, according to his bio, and is currently a VP at Sphere Consulting.

In addition to the fact that the expenditures aren’t labeled as primary or general election, there are major sums – in some cases as much as 120 percent, when debt is factored in – going to a single entity called Political Advisors, based in Utah. It’s listed in the filings as for a wide variety of things like media buys.

But it’s not clear from the filings exactly what the money was used for, as the FEC demands. For instance, things like campaign travel are lumped in as the same activities as media buys.

Asked to comment on the subtance of the FEC complaint, Johnson campaign counsel Alicia Dearn responded in an email suggesting a political conspiracy.

Dearn did not respond to the questions in the complaint about why the payments were conducted that way – including why debt was suddenly reported in the latest filing.

54 “Johnson Allies Reject Spending Charges” by Rosie Gray:

With just a few weeks before election day and his campaign making no significant progress, an email has begun circulating in libertarian circles accusing campaign manager Ronald Nielson of syphoning nearly 90% of the campaign’s $2 million to his consulting firm and charges Johnson has not paid for any radio or TV ads, direct mail or paid staff.

But the email’s claims are dubious: according to the campaign Johnson has several paid staffers and the campaign has distributed 60,000 yard signs, 165,000 bumper stickers, 670,000 brochures and flyers, and has aired almost 1,000 radio spots. The campaign has also been regularly sending out direct mail to voters and routinely organizes campaign events.

The email, which is signed by an apparently fictional person named Eric Stevens of Twinsburg, Ohio, also implicates Roger Stone, the longtime operative who became an advisor for Johnson earlier this year.

Still, the email does generally point to the fact that much of Johnson’s expenditures are in fact going to firms that appear to be connected to his aides.

According to Federal Election Commission reports, a large portion of the campaign’s disbursements went to “Political Advisors” or “Politcal [sic] Advisors,” with the address of 781 East South Temple Street in Salt Lake City.

No businesses are listed at 781 – but 731 East South Temple Street is the address of the Johnson campaign, according to its website, and also the address of Nielson’s communications firm. A call to the number listed for the building led to a voicemail for Natalie Dicou, a Johnson and Libertarian Party spokeswoman.

The September monthly report, for example, lists “Politcal [sic] Advisors” as receiving $229,563.42, by far the biggest expense that month. In the reports, the Political Advisors expenses are for “Media Buys. Candidate Travel and Advisory Services.” The report doesn’t itemize specific vendors for these services.

55 From “Complaint filed with FEC questions Johnson campaign’s use of funds” by Maggie Haberman:

The complaint, viewable here, was filed by Addison Smith, a Republican who was part of the George W. Bush reelection effort in 2004, according to his bio, and is currently a VP at Sphere Consulting.

Smith declined to comment on why he did the filing when I reached him by phone. A source familiar with the effort said it arose from an exercise with intern training, and Johnson’s filings were used as an example – and they were surprised by what they saw.

Smith doesn’t work for a political campaign and is non-active this cycle, a source close to him said. His firm is represented by Patton Boggs, which employs Mitt Romney’s veteran campaign counsel, Ben Ginsberg, who is an alum of many national efforts, including both the Bush election in 2000 and the reelect. Romney aides said the complaint has nothing to do with them.

56 From “Spoiler Alert! G.O.P. Fighting Libertarian’s Spot on the Ballot” by Jim Rutenberg:

Mr. Stone says he has become so frustrated with the party’s attempts to shut down Mr. Johnson, whom he says he is advising at no charge, that he vowed in an e-mail last month, “Republican blood will run in the streets b4 I am done.”

“Johnson Allies Reject Spending Charges” by Rosie Gray:

Stone, a lifelong Republican, changed his affiliation to Libertarian in February 2012. He became involved with the Johnson campaign in March to help Johnson get federal matching funds, telling BuzzFeed at the time that he was a volunteer.

57 From “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link] by Wayne Barrett:

*Two companies controlled by Stone’s secretary Dianne Thorne, and registered out of her Miami apartment, have received a total of $84,320 so far from the campaign. The payments started in March, shortly after the campaign also made the first of $17,000 in payments to Thorne’s stepson, Andrew Miller, who listed a St. Peters, Missouri address. Miller was confounded when the Times told him he’d actually appeared on the payroll for four months longer than he was aware. Thorne, down on the beach, was described as Paladino’s “scheduler.” She actually once had a company registered out of the same address called Hype LLC.

*Caputo himself was paid $407,190 in the first six months of the campaign, a remarkable sum for a hired mouth, suggesting that he gets expletive bonuses. Since Stone recommended his former driver Caputo to Paladino, and Caputo and Stone have worked together on and off since the mid-90s (when Caputo handled the press response to Roger’s group-sex scandal), this largesse may not belong exclusively to the lien-laden Caputo. In any event, it was paid to Caputo Public Relations at an East Aurora address, a village near Buffalo. No such company is incorporated in the state, according to the secretary of state’s office. Caputo’s firm does have a website, listed at the address of Caputo’s father’s insurance company, as well as a Florida location. But Florida officials tell the Voice that the state dissolved the company on September 25, 2009 for failing to meet registration requirements. Even junkyards incorporate a petty legal requirement with large tax implications.

*These are hardly the only avenues available to Stone if he was seeking to supplement his charitable good works on Paladino’s behalf. The campaign has adopted the extraordinary new tactic of making major payments to a Paladino family real estate company, which, in turn, pays the wages of unnamed campaign workers. So far, it has hidden $62,278 in payments to this invisible staff, an apparent violation of state laws requiring the actual identities of people paid to work in campaigns. Paladino has also formed his own advertising firm for this campaign, Ellicott Advertising, which was paid $1.8 million by the campaign to do TV and radio ads. These insider deals make it all the easier to conceal Roger rewards.

*Stone simply moved his traveling troupe of “misfits,” as Caputo himself characterized the Paladino crew in an Observer piece, from a 2009 losing effort last November in Ohio. Stone was in Ohio as the “strategic consultant” to an anti-casino campaign, trying to defeat a referendum legalizing casinos in four cities. Having made a fortune in the Indian gaming business, Stone also opposes casinos when a casino interest pays him to, and that’s precisely what he was doing in Ohio. Stone, his onetime top client Donald Trump, and a third party were hit with a record $250,000 fine by the New York lobbying commission in 2000 over their similar effort to kill New York casinos that might compete with Trump’s Atlantic City empire.

58 From “Carl Paladino: The Dirty Details in His Campaign Filings” [archive link] by Wayne Barrett:

[Larry] Klayman soon discovered that Stone was barely tending to business. He found him “sitting in an outdoor café salivating at the cavalcade of bodies, both male and female, marching up and down Lincoln Road” or in New York, “allegedly attending to his sick father.” By the time Stone and Klayman parted company that fall, “I had a campaign debt of several hundred thousand dollars, much of it on my own lines of credit.”

59 She is listed as media contact on a lot of Gary Johnson materials, such as this announcement, “Libertarian Vp Candidate Judge Jim Gray Calls Vp Debate “Animated Agreement”:

Judge Gray is available for interviews. To schedule, please contact Dianne Thorne, [etc.]

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: