9/3/07

Union political action: Crime without punishment

The Federal Election Commission has just found that Americans Coming Together, a top union group active in the 2004 presidential election, spent $100 million illegally on federal election activity that year. The agency imposed a fine of just $775,000 -- and not one dime will go back to the union workers who financed ACT's illegal activities with their forced payment of dues.

This is a textbook example of what's wrong with federal election laws. The FEC takes years to catch up with those who break the law, then administers a slap on the wrist on the grounds that ACT disbanded after the 2004 election and won't be engaging in further election activity.

In reality, such groups may disband but their supporters and personnel have every intention of remaining active in politics under another brand name. That perfectly describes the ACT shell game.

Its largest donor was the Service Employees International Union, one of the most politically active labor unions. Its largest non-union donor was billionaire George Soros. And who was the group's president? None other than Harold Ickes, a long-time functionary of the Clinton machine who served as Bill Clinton's deputy White House chief of staff. Mr. Ickes is now a major player in the huge fundraising apparatus of Hillary Rodham Clinton, who unsurprisingly has run into her own campaign finance scandal this week. One of her top donors, Norman Hsu, was revealed to be a fugitive from justice and may have illegally laundered campaign contributions to the Clinton campaign through "straw" or fake donors.

It's clear the FEC can't be relied upon to report on the law-skirting by major political players before voters render their judgment at the polls in 2008. Nor are its sanctions much of a deterrent to those playing for big stakes on the presidential stage. Mrs. Clinton's latest scandal appears to be a near-replica of the 1996 Clinton fundraising scandals, in which 120 people either fled the country to avoid questioning, took the Fifth Amendment or otherwise failed to cooperate with investigators.

The FEC enforcement action against ACT came after a complaint three years ago by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. Meanwhile, the news media resolutely ignored the story, insisting that looking into the modus operandi of the Clinton machine represented "old news." Here's hoping the press wakes up and realizes the time for vigilant reporting on the 2008 election excesses of all parties is before Americans vote, not years afterward.

(hawaiireporter.com)

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