Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ethics Commission to review 'independent' expenditure in GOP House race

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 2:58 PM

I wrote earlier that the state Ethics Commision's decision to review Leslie Rutledge's coordination of campaign advertising with a dark money outside group held immense significance. If such coordination is allowed, you can kiss campaign accountability goodbye.

Now I have word of another Ethics Commission investigation into another bit of state coordination between a Republican candidate and an independent financial group that doesn't labor under the same reporting requirements.

Campaign consultant Jason Willett sends me a copy of a letter he received confirming that the Ethics Commission will investigate his complaint against Brandt Smith, a Republican seeking a Jonesboro House seat against District 58 incumbent Rep. Harold Copenhaver.

Willett complains that Smith has coordinated with the Conduit for Action, a Tea Party-style group that has become active in extremist politics at the state level. Its activities have included targeting Republicans who supported the private option.

The Commission also will probe whether Smith filed timely financial reports, whether he received money from prohibited PACs and whether he received contributions in excess of the $2,000 limit. The letter said the Commission will review actions of Conduit, which is registered as an independent expenditure committee. Such committees, to be independent, must not expressly advocate for or against a candidate and be made without arrangement with the candidate. Willett alleges that photos and videos were made in an arrangement with Conduit for Action.

Here's the letter Willett received.
Willett elaborates on his theory:

An investigation into these complaints has started and I will be providing video evidence of the coordination between Mr. Smith, these Fayetteville shell non-profit entities and Conduit for Action and Commerce in Action to just name a few.

You may notice in the letter on page 4 that AR Business Services; AR Manufacturing First; and AR Natural Resources were all filed as PAC’s on the same day of April 3, 2014. These 3 shell groups all have the same addresses and same officers as well.

You will see by digging a little further that these groups donate to the Conduit and Commerce Groups and also contribute directly to legislative campaigns like Mr. Smith’s. These groups also receive donations from the conduit and commerce groups and all the groups contribute to several candidates running for office who call themselves “Tea Party” Conservatives. These candidates receive campaign contributions from these shell groups then funnel donations to other candidates. The BIG QUESTION is where is all this money coming from.

Also, for legislators to contribute to each other they must have ticketed events. 'Ill assure you several of these donations were given at a non-ticketed event.

Several of these shell groups have been also operating in Arkansas as a non-profit entity previous to them also filing as PACs. The main officer for Conduits for Action is also a registered lobbyist for his group.

Finally, I have video of Brenda Vassar and Ken Yang, employees and officers with several of these groups organizing and coordinating with Mr. Smith, 4 other local candidates for the state legislature, and a dozen current legislators at a press conference earlier this month in Jonesboro. Mrs. Vassar and Mr. Yang are videoed addressing the event and are thanked for their work putting together the event where every legislator and candidate spoke. This is coordination by its most basic definition and these PAC’s are contributing to all these candidates.

Mr. Smith filing his campaign reports late seems to be a pattern.

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