Running Amok

( – promoted by EaBo Clipper)

A new post this morning ominously warns that it’s Time for Beatty detractors to explain themselves…or have it done for them.”

This blockbuster piece of yellow journalism (perhaps that is an affront to yellow journalists) links to one of the author’s own stories, and promises to “rattle the underpinnings of the Mass GOP.” Since the substance of the story involves nothing I’ve read in this site, I wouldn’t have assumed that the author was referring to anyone here when he suggested it was time for people to “explain themselves,” but since his story does link back to a post here, I suppose the fair inference is that perhaps he does mean to refer to some of us here – which would really be quite outrageous and dishonest.

So, out of no iota of fear that any explaining need be done – by me or anyone else for me – I offer the following.

The controversy began on February 7th when EaBo posted “Where is Jeff Beatty’s FEC report?”

The post asked a simple question, and EaBo pointed out that he even gave the campaign a week grace period from the January 31st filing deadline before posting it.

The deadline would have been required for any campaign committee of a declared candidate. Although Mr. Beatty announced back in March  that he was forming an exploratory committee, according to the FEC database Mr. Beatty didn’t file his Statement of Organization until September 30, 2007 indicating that his efforts were exploratory only. This statement was amended on February 22, 2008 to become a campaign committee.

The discussion in the comment section of EaBo’s initial post centered around the FEC regulations that exempt (from reporting) contributions that are received in support of a candidate “testing the waters,”  and whether or not, specifically, actions such as launching a website that says Beatty for Senate, traveling in a bus that says Beatty for Senate, operating a Beatty for Senate booth at CPAC, and (allegedly) informing the MFYR group that he had raised $500,000 constitute permissible “testing the waters” activities. If they are not permissible testing the waters activities, the FEC regulations would have been violated. Hence the inquiry about where his report was.

In order to better understand the issues presented, a telephone call was placed to the FEC’s information office, where a very capable and helpful lady referred me to this Advisory Opinion, rendered to Charles Grassley in 1979:

Advisory Opinion 1979-26:

…Under the Act, a “candidate” includes an individual who has “received contributions or  made expenditures, or has given his consent for any other person to receive contributions

or make expenditures, with a view to bringing about his, nomination… or election, to such [Federal] office.” 2 U.S.C. SS 431(b)(2). A “contribution” means a gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money or anything of value “made for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election, or election, of any person to Federal office.” 2 U.S.C. SS 431(e). A limited exception to the definition of contribution is recognized in Commission regulation SS 100.4(b)(1) where it is stated that the term contribution does not include:

Payments made for the purpose of determining whether an individual should become a candidate, such as those incurred in conducting a poll, if the individual does not otherwise become a candidate. If the individual otherwise subsequently becomes a candidate, the payments are contributions…regardless of the date the payments were made.

This exception was made so that an individual is not discouraged from “testing the  waters” to determine whether his candidacy is feasible.  However, this narrow exception in not to be used to amass campaign funds that would be spent after the individual decides to actively pursue a candidacy, rather it is available only to determine political support for a potential candidacy through such activities as polling. Both SS 100.4(b)(1) and SS 100.7(b)(2), its parallel section for expenditures, are written in terms of “payments… made” to cover costs incurred for activity related to the determination of whether to become a candidate. The Commission concludes therefore, that as long as funds received and payments made by the Committee are received and spent exclusively for determining whether you should become a Senate candidate, those funds would not presently be “contributions” or “expenditures” within the meaning of SS 431(s) and (f). Thus you would not be deemed a Senate candidate subject to the reporting requirements of 2 U.S.C. SS 434 provided that funds are raised and spent by the Committee solely for exploratory purposes. Moreover, until such time as those funds become “contributions” and “expenditures” under SS 431(e) and (f), the Committee would not be defined as a “political committee” and, hence, would not be required to register with the Commission and file reports pursuant to SS 434. Accordingly, if the Committee desires and if its

activities are limited to “testing the waters,” it may terminate its registration with the Commission pursuant to SS 102.4 of Commission regulations.

(emphasis supplied.)

In the course of my discussion, I asked specifically whether operation of a campaign website that states “Joe Smith for U. S. Senate” could be considered “testing the waters,” and I was informed (after a giggle) that such would not be appropriate, the operative words being “for U. S. Senate.” I asked if an over-the-road camper with “Joe Smith for U. S. Senate” would likewise be outside the “testing the waters” exception and was assured (again, after a longer giggle) that this would be an even bigger no-no.

Finally, when I asked if there was any limit to the amount of money that could be raised under the testing the waters exception, she said that the money raised has to be intended to support the testing the waters activity such as polling, demographic research and the like. I asked her if it were conceivable that $500,000 would be an appropriate amount to spend, and her reply was, “for a Presidential campaign?” No, for a U. S. Senate race. She assured me that it would be difficult indeed to justify raising that amount of money for permissible exploratory activities, “unless you were polling every congressional district in California.”

The response to EaBo’s post from the Beatty campaign was a link to Sharilee’s “11th Commandment” post that contained a portion of a communication from Mr. Manzoli, apparently Mr. Beatty’s campaign manager, that refers to some other communications that (to my knowledge) had nothing to do with the FEC question. And further attempts to get a clear explanation were met with the old stone wall “the campaign is in compliance.”

With all due respect, I disagree.

Now today, Ken Pittman exposes some communications between people I’ve never heard of regarding Mr. Beatty’s service record (referred to in Mr. Manzoli’s statement that sharilee posted here) – and Pittman attempts to link that controversy to this website by alleging that Mr. Beatty “has been accused of embellishing his service record in several key Massachusetts conservative websites by  anonymous bloggers and emails,” linking the “bloggers” to EaBo’s “Where is Jeff Beatty’s FEC report?” post.

The glaring problem here is that there was nothing said in this blog about Mr. Beatty’s service record until it was brought up by Beatty’s supporters, Ken among them! And even at that, when the issue was raised, none of the commenters supported such an attack.

(It is also amusing that the reference to “several key Massachusetts conservative websites” links not to RMG or any conservative website, but to a PR News site that contains the Beatty Campaign’s own press release! How to cover your tracks, PI man!)

And note, by the way, that for all of the sinister activities that are alleged here, there is no formal complaint filed on this. There could have been. This dispute has been confined to this site, among us (before the prying eyes of a few befuddled interlopers). If there was any malice against Mr. Beatty here, that would have been done weeks ago (and I can’t say that Mr. Beatty’s defenders are doing a helluva job at discouraging malice).

It troubles me greatly that someone in the communications business would be so reckless as to accuse this blog (and by implication, anyone who has expressed reservations about the viability of a Beatty candidacy) of complicity in the communications concerning Mr. Beatty’s service records. I don’t know if Mr. Pittman has any formal affiliation with the Beatty campaign, but whether he or doesn’t, someone over there ought to suggest to him that this sort of “help” they can do without.

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