September 15, 2003
Where Did A Republican Party Operative Accused Of Placing "Swinging Couple" Ads Get $150,000 During The 2000 Recount To Finance A Campaign To Oust Florida Supreme Court Justices?
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
Why is a story about a "backwater" detail of the battle over the 2000 recount still valid? Because it sheds insight into how the Bush Cartel and the Republican Party operate. The Bush Cartel depends upon our shortened news cycle (every six hours or so) -- and the Pro-Bush corporate owned media -- to prevent Americans from connecting the dots that tie together the vast right wing conspiracy.
That means, for example, that a "minor" story that emerged just this past week will quickly be forgotten. It is about how an obscure Arkansas figure who was key to Ken Starr's Whitewater persecution was recently appointed as the Inspector General for the Pentagon:
The controversy surrounding Lewis's role in giving Ken Starr the traction he needed to turn the Whitewater non-Clinton scandal into a witch hunt is far too complicated to detail here. Let's just ask the question: Are American taxpayers going to be the losers because the Bush Cartel appointed an obscure member of the anti-Clinton crowd to the key DOD position investigating fraud?
The second issue worthy of recent note is how quickly the Puritanical Robinson/Bush/ Cheney/DeLay/wing of the Republican Party (AKA the Republican Party) has abandoned all their moral posturing during the Clinton years to embrace Governor Gang Bang (AKA Governor Groper). They are even trying to push a rock-ribbed right wing California state senator out of the race in order to clear the way for the man whose most notable photos are of his head between two women's breasts and a frontal photo of him flexing his muscles and baring his (as our father would say) gizmo.
The vast right wing is only interested in creating a one-party state where secrecy will ensure that they will never have to be accountable, where John Ashcroft will be able to privately interrogate anyone, where they will be able to redistrict congressional seats at will to their favor, where they will have their Federalist judges declare them the winners of elections, where they will try and recall any Democrats that they can't beat.
These are not people who respect democracy. These are people who think they know better than the American people about how to run this country. They are the ultimate elitist crowd, masquerading as religious fundamentalists and cultural populists.
In reality, they are just anti-democracy snakes slithering through the fields of American freedom.
In that context, we believe the following BuzzFlash.com story on an August Florida hearing that revealed -- and didn't reveal -- much -- and too little -- on one little operation of the vast right wing conspiracy.
It is about an undertaking that took time at a point the Bush Cartel was afraid that the Florida State Supreme Court would succeed in forcing a recount. Clearly, the Bush Cartel wasn't ready yet to drop its atomic bomb on the pending recount. (They knew that Tony "the Fixer" Scalia would ensure them five votes to stop the recount and hand Bush the election, but they preferred the "appearance" of legitimacy.) So they launched some dirty tricks. One of those was the formation of a supposedly Florida-based group that was allegedly going to work toward the defeat of Florida Supreme Court judges for supporting a recount.
And now onto our story....
An August, 2003, Hearing in Florida Left One Question Unanswered:
In August, the Florida Elections Commission fined Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty $2,000 for violating state election laws related to the "Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary." The committee, created in November of 2000, wanted to oust three Florida Supreme Court justices who had, along with the rest of the court, ruled favorably on conducting a recount of the Bush and Gore votes in three counties and who later voted to make the recount statewide.
The "crime" of these judges, according to the committee, was that the Florida Supreme Court judges had upheld the right of one-person, one-vote in Bush v. Gore.
The FEC had concluded that McCarty certified an "incorrect, false, or incomplete" campaign report that included contributions exceeding the $500 state limit, and that the committee had incurred campaign expenses without having money on hand. Most prominent among the contributions it received was a mysterious $150,000 loan for a direct mail fundraising campaign that by all accounts came from Roger Stone, Jr., a long-time Republican operative who owns the Washington, D.C.-based Ikon Public Affairs.
The committee’s "Dear Friend" fundraising letter, which was signed by McCarty, read: "Were you as outraged by the Florida Supreme Court's efforts to highjack [sic] the presidency for Al Gore as I was? It was an outrageous, arrogant power-grab by a left-wing court which is stuck in the liberal 60s. . . .We must raise at least $4.5 million by the 'Vote No' campaign to organize Florida voters to reject the retention of these three liberal Supreme Court justices."
At the time, McCarty’s efforts received national publicity, and the media was led to believe that McCarty was leading an effort initiated, funded and operated by Florida residents.
McCarty revealed during the FEC hearings that she was recruited by top Republicans on the morning after the Nov. 7 election to oversee the ballot recount in Palm Beach County. McCarty also testified that Stone called her at home between Nov. 13 and Nov. 16 and told her he was forming a committee "for the purposes of taking action against the Florida Supreme Court," and she agreed to participate, according to the Broward Daily Business Review.[LINK]
"He explained to me that people were very, very upset with the way the Florida Supreme Court was conducting itself, and that in Florida we have a merit retention system," McCarty said.
But what Stone did not explain -- and still has not to this day -- is who instructed him to create the committee and who donated the $150,000.
According to press reports, committee campaign records listed the $150,000 as a "loan" from Creative Marketing in Alexandria, Va., which doesn’t exist, though it does share the same mailing address as the Stone Group, a fundraising and marketing firm run by Republican activist Ann Stone, Roger’s ex-wife.
Stranger still, according to the Broward Daily Business Review reporter Dan Christensen, state Administrative Law Judge Harry L. Hooper, determined that "Stone ‘or his organization’ actually paid the $150,000 not to Creative Marketing but to a Virginia company called Unique Graphics and Design, which, according to Virginia state corporate records, had as its principals Ann Stone and Lora Lynn Jones. The committee subsequently paid Unique Graphics an additional $50,000 in May 2001 for purposes that remain unclear."
"Neither Hooper nor the FEC determined why the committee listed Creative Marketing rather than Unique Graphics as the recipient of the payments," Christensen wrote July 9.
"In another anomaly, a Daily Business Review examination of Virginia state corporate records found that Unique Graphics was not a legal entity when the two payments of $150,000 and $50,000 were made and received. The company's charter was terminated in 1994, and the firm was purged from the state's records in 1999. And despite state records showing that Ann Stone was a principal of Unique Graphics, Jones said she was the sole owner and employee. She also said, however, that she was a longtime employee of the Stone Group," reported Christensen.
The vast right wing conspiracy sure know how to cover their tracks. What we need is a Democratic Ken Starr, someone who sings "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" when he or she jogs, instead of thinking that God is sending him messages.
Yet for all that the FEC investigation uncovered, questions surrounding who gave Stone the money in the first place remain unanswered. According to the Daily Business Review, state investigators never subpoenaed bank records that "possibly could have identified the source of the $150,000."
"What this is all about is who gave it and who got it," Eric Lipman [LINK], assistant general counsel to the FEC, said when the FEC handed down the $2,000 fine to McCarty. "To this day we do not know where the $150,000 came from to pay for a campaign to overthrow three Supreme Court justices. This was a big thing. This was not a run for the dogcatcher of Podunk, Florida. This involved the election of the president of the United States."
Our thoughts exactly, which is why we’re still wondering why this story hasn’t been an A1 story in all major newspapers. While the Terminator has been stealing political coverage in California, a story about pressure to terminate the presidential recount has been largely ignored. Of course, the key question remains: To what extent was McCarty’s committee an organization created and funded as part of the larger Bush campaign effort to prevent a recount in Florida? If the answer is that it was a disguised effort run by the Bush campaign, some serious legal violations may have occurred.
Surprisingly -- for any place but Florida, at least -- were it not for a June 2001 complaint sworn out by Andy Martin, a Palm Beach County Republican activist, there probably wouldn’t have been any investigation of McCarty or the Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary, as the FEC only initiates investigations once it has received a written complaint. No complaint was ever filed against Stone directly.
More troubling at this point is why this case has not been referred to the Florida Attorney General's Office for a criminal investigation. The two-year statute of limitation for election violations has passed, killing any chances for the FEC to take action against Stone even if a complaint were now filed, but a county or federal prosecutor could pick up the investigation.
If investigators ever do decide to probe beyond the surface of Florida’s swampy politics, they might want to start by interviewing James A. Baker II, former secretary of state under President George H. Bush. Author Jeffrey Toobin wrote in his 2001 book on the aftermath of the 2000 election, Too Close to Call, that Baker, who had become Bush Jr.’s chief post-election strategist, contacted Stone and asked for his help.
"Shortly after Election Day, Stone received a call from Baker aide Margaret Tutwiler, who said, ‘Mr. Baker would like you to go to Florida,’" Toobin wrote.
(Astute political readers may be wondering if Baker called upon the same Roger Stone, Jr. who, in 1996, was forced to resign his consulting position [LINK] with presidential candidate Bob Dole after two supermarket tabloids reported that he and his wife, Nydia, had advertised on the Internet and in "Swing Fever" magazine for couples interested in engaging in group sex. Yes, dear readers, it is. For the record, Stone claimed he had been set up [LINK], though he acknowledged the Internet advertisements were paid for with his credit card. Apparently, these "allegations" were not grounds for disqualification from the Republican Family Values Club.)
Stone had previously worked on the brief presidential campaigns of Sen. Arlen Specter and Donald Trump, and he had successfully fought a Florida referendum in 1996 calling for a tax on sugar, with proceeds going toward the Everglades. In his book, Toobin notes that Stone used his connections with leaders in the Cuban-American community to get assurances that there would be a show of support for Bush.
Stone was even allegedly the manager of the infamous "Brown Shirt riot" in Miami on Nov. 22 that, through intimidation, derailed a ballot recount there: "From a building across the street, Roger Stone communicated with his people on the ground by walkie-talkie," wrote Toobin.
McCarty knew Stone’s background and willingly lent her support to his efforts. Yet she told the Associated Press earlier this year: "I didn't do any of this except sign my name. . . . This was basically some sort of a scam that was set up that I was used in. I was duped." Yes, and this is coming from a loyal, goose-stepping Republican.
In July, the Palm Beach Post ran an editorial claiming that McCarty’s "pity" appeal was hardly becoming of a woman who has shown "little patience for self-styled victims or for people who hide behind victims."
"It's hard to see how Commissioner McCarty was duped," the editorial said. "Roger Stone, a Republican operative in Washington, asked her to front for the Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary, and she agreed to let the group send out 350,000 fund-raising letters under her name. She knew the purpose was to punish justices who wanted to count as many votes as possible. Even if none of the $220,000 the group raised went directly to Commissioner McCarty, she certainly expected to benefit politically from lending her name so prominently."
Washington Post reported in July [LINK] that Stone "declined
to be interviewed" for a report compiled by the FEC, and the FEC couldn't
to serve a subpoena (even though he owns a $2.2 million mansion in
Fla., and another residence in Washington, D.C.). His business partner,
Craig Snyder, was never questioned, either.
It’s not the first time Stone has gotten caught trying to influence decision makers. In 2000, the New York state legislature was considering a bill was that would have limited casino expansion. Donald Trump, who owns gambling interests in New Jersey, was naturally in favor of the bill, and Stone was hired as a lobbyist for Trump Hotel & Casino Resorts.
The duo later acknowledged giving at least $118,000 – without filing the proper paperwork – to the New York Institute for Law and Society, an "issues advocacy group," to fund ad campaigns against Gov. George Pataki and the St. Regis Mohawk Indians. The ads drew criticism for depicting the Mohawk tribe as drug-dealing criminals.
According to the Albany Times Union [LINK], Stone’s attorney, the same Judd Burstein, said his client was "intimately involved" in designing the ads, but had tried to keep his involvement secret because "we had a good faith belief that it wasn't lobbying."
Right. Just like the Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary wasn’t a PAC, it was a legit community effort.
In this case, Stone also found a willing front man: Thomas Hunter, a horse trainer and owner of a Rome, N.Y.-based telemarketing company who has been involved with Conservative Party politics for years. In 1982, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives on the Conservative Party line and lost.
Hunter initially insisted that the Institute for Law and Society’s funding came from thousands of "pro-family, conservative" donors, not competing casinos. He later acknowledged under oath that in reality he had only received two donations, according to The Daily Star (Oneonta, N.Y.). In December 2000, staff writer John Milgrim wrote:
Are you beginning to see a pattern here of how Roger Stone operates? But, remember, in the battle over the Florida recount, we are talking about unaccounted-for money that was used, in essence, to try to intimidate and punish state Supreme Court justices.
The controversies surrounding Stone haven’t had had any effect on his firm’s political work. In fact, in 2002, the Miami-Dade County Commission awarded Ikon Public Affairs a no-bid $1.8 million contract [LINK] to help defeat a referendum concerning Miami-Dade’s home-rule charter, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel [LINK].
McCarty, however, would like some help [LINK] paying her legal bills. Without a trace of irony, one Republican official told the paper he would solicit donations via the party’s mailing list.
Who financially was behind the creation of the Committee to Take Back Our Judiciary? Who conceived of it? Was it an organized part of the Bush campaign’s efforts to prevent Al Gore from becoming president, even if laws were broken in achieving that goal?
As long as Roger Stone is allowed to keep his silence, we can only speculate about the answers to these questions. But we have to ask: What are the odds the answers to all these questions don’t lead back to the Bush campaign of 2000?
Our bets range from slim to zero. But, we're not the betting type.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
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BuzzFlash Note: This BuzzFlash news analysis could not have been completed without the material provided in the sources cited within the text of this article.
otherwise noted, all original