Friday, August 24, 2007

Rep. Coulson calls kettle black

State Representative Elizabeth Coulson (R-17, Glenview) today came out swinging against one of the strongest opponents she's faced in years. In this Winnetka Today article on her upcoming reelection campaign, Rep. Coulson complains about Democratic challenger Daniel Biss using the benign ActBlue Illinois PAC fundraising tool:

That Biss reported donations totaling $19,150 from "Act Blue," a national Web site that allows Democrats to set up accounts to raise money for candidates of their choosing, bothers Coulson.

"Act Blue" donations are reported in lump sums, but individual contributors through "Act Blue" are not required to be identified "so we don't know where the money is coming from," Coulson said. "It's a (political action committee) that raises money from all around the country. It's exactly the kind of PAC we've tried to address in ethics reform."

(As clarification, there is an "ActBlue" federal PAC and an "ActBlue Illinois" state PAC. Mr. Biss' donations have come from the state PAC, ActBlue Illinois.)

You can see for yourself exactly that ActBlue is basically a means for candidates and campaigns to easily process political donations. Rep. Coulson, political animal that she is (that's a joke, friends), tries to misconstrue that basic function by pointing out that the donations that come into ActBlue Illinois for Mr. Biss are aggregated together such that the Biss campaign does not have to reveal who the actual donors are.

I understand the trepidation there but Rep. Coulson is conveniently ignoring two facts, making her appear a bit hypocritical.

First, because it is an Illinois registered PAC, ActBlue Illinois's donations to state-level candidates must be listed on the ActBlue Illinois D-2 forms. Reporter Stiefel writes that ActBlue reports in "lump sums" which is technically true -- transfers to candidates are reported as a lump sum on that candidate's D-2 form.

But, ActBlue's own D-2s themselves must, by law, list the individual contributors of $200 or more. Anyone can look up that info and find out the names of the donors, just as with any other registered Illinois candidate, campaign or PAC. Moreover, since Mr. Biss is currently the only state-level candidate in the Land of Lincoln using ActBlue Illinois, it's very simple to determine the donors intending to raise funds specifically for him.

And that's precisely what Mr. Biss himself is now doing. An advocate of ethical and transparent governance himself, he immediately recognized the issue as being important and resolved it by simply listing every donor over $200 that has contributed to his campaign via ActBlue Illinois. In other words, Mr. Biss is going above and beyond by applying state law -- disclosing $200+ donors -- before such a law even exists. (In fact, he even lists several donors who fall under that threshold.)

Mr. Biss states:

Due to a quirk in campaign finance law, contributions made via ActBlue are listed in a separate section of Illinois's campaign finance disclosures. This has caused some people to wonder whether transparency is compromised. Actually, ActBlue gives rise to greater transparency. For example, my ActBlue hub actually says how many contributions I've received in addition to the total dollar amount; it also breaks this information down for each fundraiser. However, the confusion is understandable. I am deeply committed to openness and transparency in politics, and consequently, I am using this page to supplement the information provided in the Illinois disclosures. (link is original)

The second fact Rep. Coulson chooses to overlook is that she herself receives PAC money ... a lot of PAC money.

In just the past two years, Rep. Coulson has accepted well over $100,000 in PAC money (seek out "Transfers In" on the D-2 forms). Remember, Mr. Biss had only raised $19,150 via the ActBlue Illinois PAC up to the end of the latest reporting period.

ArchPundit points out that, to be intellectually honest on this topic, Rep. Coulson ought to now determine who all the donors to all those myriad PACs are that have helped her own campaign and publicly disclose those individuals (just as Mr. Biss immediately did).

In addition, the Winnetka Today reporter, Lynne Stiefel, in a follow-up article about the 17th district ought to disclose some of the basic information I've discussed here (chiefly, that it's relatively easy to determine who ActBlue Illinois donors are and that Rep. Coulson has taken in more than $100,ooo of PAC money in just the last two years herself).

For how much Republicans nationwide complain that people ought to be able to donate however much they want to political campaigns (as a "free speech" issue, which I suppose implies that money talks), Rep. Coulson sure has an odd way of showing it.

(c/p at Illinois Reason)

17 comments:

JB Powers 10:05 AM  

Brillian piece Rob.

Entirely takes focus off any legitimate issue and places it on the horse race of how much money can a candidate raise. Who needs the issues? Who needs elections?

Why not just grant the office to the person that raises the most money?

Anonymous,  12:30 PM  

It's not exactly news that Republicans are lying hypocrites--but I appreciate your thorough demolition of Coulson.

JB Powers 1:29 PM  

Ah,

The enlightening anonymous 12:30 adds name calling to this charming discourse! The Founding Fathers would be proud to see what high minded individuals discuss politics here.

fedup dem 6:44 PM  

Hopefully the hypocrisy of Rep. Coulson is now so apparent to the voters of her district that no amount of special-interest money will save her in 2008.

Rob 11:57 PM  

JB,

That's a bizarre way to try and change the subject.

I suggest you re-read the post because you've entirely missed the point of the post and instead chose to whine about fundraising horse races.

The "horse race" aspect of fundraising has very little to do with what I wrote (if anything).

The point you missed is the fact that Rep. Coulson is speaking out of both sides of her mouth when it comes to PAC money and transparency of political contributions.

She complains about what she calls a lack of transparency when, in fact, she can easily look up the individual donors (it took me less than 5 minutes to find all the links I put in the post) and she has yet to list the individuals contributing to the PACs from which she enjoys contributions (seeing as how not knowing the names of the individuals contributing to Mr. Biss was her apparent complaint, and a myopic one at that).

Besides, she's the one who's been in office -- why hasn't she fixed what she's complaining about in the first place?

Try your silly red herring subject-changers somewhere else, JB.

JB Powers 7:27 AM  

Darn it Rob, you got me,

Your right. Campaign fundraising is of paramount importance. Nothing else matters. We should end these silly elections and just hold fundraisers. Then we could just debate over the method candidates use to raise money rather than substantial issues.

It would be easier that way. The silly electorate wouldn't have to worry about issues they don't understand anyway, and what really matters would froth up: money.

There is nothing quite as important as how candidates raise money. Who needs education, pensions, roads, healthcare? Just buy and sell the elections to the highest bidder.

JBP

Anonymous,  10:45 AM  

Does Biss plan on voting for Michael Madigan as Speaker of the House? Did Biss support Blagojevich for Governor?

If yes, every complaint you have against Coulson becomes pretty much irrelevant just as all the promises Biss makes during the campaign are irrelevant. Madigan will tell Biss how to vote and Madigan will decide if any of Biss' legislation gets called for a vote.

Unless Biss publicly and loudly states he does not support the childish, power hungry leadership of your State Party that has created this mess, he doesn't deserve one single vote, let alone your twisted spin away from the havoc the Democrats are reaping on Illinoisans.

JB Powers 11:35 AM  

Anon 10:45,

Far be it from Rob to discuss anything substantial like adherence to Madigan machine politics, Blago/Jones/Obama machine politics, or some sort of independence.

Our fearless analyst wants politics to be about fundraising, methods of fundraising, and claims about the opponents fundraisers. No need for substance.

Northshore Nurse,  2:31 PM  

JB, the point is that this sort of thing is par for the course with Ms. Coulson. She constantly likes to have it both ways and ends up getting nothing done. She'll blab all day long about campaign finance reform but has she done anything to fix the problem as a House member? Absolutely not. That would require her to stop taking money from special interests that dictate what she does and does not do in Springfield!

Case in point is how she proclaims support for healthcare professionals, yet is too in bed with pharmaceutical companies and the Illinois Hospital Association to be bothered with nurses from her district who want to see a staffing ratio bill pass in IL.

She likes to try to appeal to everyone on every issue and she just comes off as a mealy mouthed, ineffective leader. She doesn't take a stand on anything. She tells people what she thinks they want to hear. She's an unauthentic as they come and she's not going to win in this blue district this time around.

This issue of Coulson's hypocrisy on campaign finance law is the same way that she handles everything. Talking out of both sides of her mouth indeed.

JB Powers 6:47 PM  

NSN,

Campaign finance reform is one of the biggest non-issues in the country. If Rep Coulson has some conflicts with "healthcare professionals" vs. hospitals and Pharma, bring it up. If donations to Coulson are being used to buy her votes, bring it up.

But just cheerleading and counting $ is a waste of time. Statements like "she's not going to win in this blue district this time around" are not real valuable without some type of referential material.

JBP

Rob 11:18 PM  

JB,

Now we know you're just blowing smoke.

JB wrote: "Far be it from Rob to discuss anything substantial like adherence to Madigan machine politics, Blago/Jones/Obama machine politics, or some sort of independence."

Daniel Biss part of the Madigan machine? You clearly couldn't even be bothered to find anything out about the guy, could you?

Thanks for the laugh. Why do you think he's been raising funds through ActBlue Illinois, JB?

The point, which you conveniently continue to miss in order to promote your silly red herrings, is that Rep. Coulson is being a hypocrite here, twice over in fact.

First, she is complaining that her opponent is doing something ... completely legal. Last time I checked legal actions were still legal and, despite her whining about trying to clean up ethics, if she thought PAC money was so unethical she's done very little to change things.

Second, she is complaining he is doing something she herself does (many times over in fact). As Northshore Nurse points out the majority of her PAC money comes from medical and pharma groups -- yet she says she has taken a great interest in overseeing the very issues that affect those healthcare groups. Go figure.

So there are two issues right there, JB: ethics and healthcare. Weighty issues, and Rep. Coulson is proving herself a hypocrite on both.

Yet you'd rather continue to try and distract the conversation away from these things with your red herrings. Wonder why that is, JB...

JB Powers 7:14 AM  

Again Rob,

I have no idea if Dan Biss is in the Madigan machine or not, but that is an issue to be discussed, rather than the nutty scorekeeping that infatuates the press.

NSN brings up a valid point with regards to healthcare and service to consitutency. Good!

But the subject of your post (and the Winnetka Today article) is a mindless waste of time that the media loves, while the Illinois Pension system goes bankrupt, education fails, property taxes rise etc...and nobody notices

JBP

Rob 9:35 AM  

So JB, let me get this straight -- despite your several comments critical of my fact-based post, your entire beef in this has actually been with the Winnetka Today reporter?

Sure, JB.

If that's so that you likely didn't read the article, since it does cover other issues.

And if you "have no idea if Dan Biss is in the Madigan machine or not" why'd you imply it was so?

You want to write about those issues? Go for it. Anyone can start a blog.

Your gripe about news articles covering campaign finances instead of your preferred issues is with the reporter, not me, since that journalist is the one who wrote the story.

Your gripe about news reporters reporting the fact that Rep. Coulson is discussing campaign finances instead of your preferred issues is with Rep. Coulson, not me, since she was the one who hypocritically complained about it to the reporter.

I was simply pointing out Rep. Coulson's two-faced nature on the topic.

JB Powers 10:03 AM  

OK Rob,

That resolves it. You posted it, and made the 8th grade-level analysis of the Freshmen-level story from the Winnetka paper. So, that would mean you are absolved from any responsibility for the story?

My gripe is that reporters refuse to investigate political positions and issues, and bloggers copy reporters stories perpetuating the irresponsibilty of the media. How would anyone know what they are voting for with this level of analysis?

JBP

Rob 11:19 AM  

JB,

I thought you were against name-calling? ;)

If your gripe is with the reporter, whine to the reporter. Her email is available at the linked article.

My gripe was with Rep. Coulson's ridiculous and hypocritical complaint which was quoted in that article. That is why I discussed it.

I'm supposed to ignore her two-faced whining because you don't think it's worthy?

Get over yourself.

She could've complained about Daniel Biss' suit color in the article, and it would've been just as hollow and ridiculous a complaint.

I agree that reporters ought to be ask substantial questions -- but I'm not going to ignore a baseless, two-faced complaint like Rep. Coulson's either.

JB Powers 1:54 PM  

"I'm supposed to ignore her two-faced whining because you don't think it's worthy?"

Correct. I am asking you to use adult discretion in not perpetuating the moronic stories of the STNG. Of course you can do what you want, but I condemn this type of media blather while the State is in such a pickle.

JBP

Rob 2:41 PM  

JB,

The media "blather" (which ignored, as you say, the state being in such a pickle) originated with the sitting Republican incumbent, Elizabeth Coulson, who chose to discuss Daniel Biss' legal campaign fundraising (attempting to imply it was somehow unethical).

Again, if your gripe is "blather" about campaign financing, the person you need to talk to is Rep. Coulson -- she's the one who chose to discuss it with the press at the expense of ignoring detailed discussion of other topics.

And, in my adult discretion, it's important to not let her get away with doing such a thing -- which is why I called her out on her hypocrisy (and why you are now calling her out on her impolitic avoidance of more important matters).

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