In the "secret" underworld of Republican fundraising, Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie use "cloaked" donor lists to "dig up dirt" on Democrats and funnel campaign contributions to Republican candidates. At least that's the impression left by Politico's Jim VandeHei.
On the July 21 "Morning Joe," Time magazine's Mark Halperin challenged VandeHei's characterization of American Crossroads GPS, a Republican political organization that finances issue ads designed to promote conservative positions on policy issues.
"With all due respect to Jim and the folks at Politico, you know, they make this these shadowy donors, this shadowy group, I mean, these are citizens who, under the law, are able to give anonymously to a group like this and to fund political activity to help them win races," complained Halperin.
Highlighting the fact that American Crossroads, classified as a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, is not required to disclose its donor list, the Politico piece lead Halperin, who is no champion of conservative causes, to conclude that VandeHei and his colleagues believe the Rove - Gillespie operation is a "shadowy" organization.
Halperin also accused VandeHei of promoting a double standard: "I'm not sure if this were a Democratic group people would look at this as something sinister but rather an attempt to fight for what they believe in the marketplace of political ideas."
"I think there's been a big push of late to try to get at least more disclosure of donors I think from both sides," countered VandeHei.
It's hard to believe Politico's executive editor would paint other 501(c)4 organizations like the Center for American Progress, MoveOn.org, or the Natural Resources Defense Council as clandestine operations. But when it comes to a non-profit organization run by prominent Republicans, Politico cast a menacing shadow over the organization.
The transcript of the program can be found below:
July 21, 2010
8:23 A.M. E.S.T.
WILLIE GEIST: With us now, Executive Editor of Politico, Jim VandeHei, he's back with a look at the Playbook. Hey, Jim.
JIM VANDEHEI, Politico executive editor: Hey, how you doing?
GEIST: Good. Let's pick up on something we were talking about earlier in the show and that's Karl Rove, had been having trouble apparently raising cash from donors because they don't want to get their names out there so he did something about it.
VANDEHEI: Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, some other prominent Republicans have put together a group they were trying to get a bunch money to run attack ads and go after Democrats. They weren't having much luck because the way they set it up donors had to disclose their names. Now they've created a new organization that allows them to cloak the identity of donor names. Money is pouring in and they're saying they're going to put that money in to some dirt-digging against Democrats and also painting what's happened in the Gulf as Obama's Katrina.
GEIST: Hey Mark Halperin, is this a new concept? Has Karl Rove tapped into a new idea here? We're going to give him a mic too, it'll be great.
MARK HALPERIN, Time magazine: There are new groups based on this Supreme Court decision from January but I have to say, with all due respect to Jim and the folks at Politico, you know, they make this these shadowy donors, this shadowy group, I mean, these are citizens who, under the law, are able to give anonymously to a group like this and to fund political activity to help them win races. I'm not sure if this were a Democratic group people would look at this as something sinister but rather an attempt to fight for what they believe in the marketplace of political ideas.
VANDEHEI: I disagree with you, Mark. I think there was a tremendous amount of coverage back when George Soros and others were starting to do this for Democrats if you recall back in 2006, which helped them take back control of power and I think there's been a big push of late to try to get at least more disclosure of donors I think from both sides. And there still exists this caveat in tax law – 501(c)3 or 4 – which allows you to do some of this activity anonymously. So I think certainly both sides do it. I think it's most interesting right now for Republicans because they desperately need this infusion of cash to be able to win back the House and Senate because they're suffering when it comes to money.
HALPERIN: I agree, I just like to get under Jim's skin when I can.
VANDEHEI: You sound better when you didn't have a mic, Mark.
GEIST: The page and Politico in a smack down. Judge Buchanan would you like to render your ruling? Who's right in this case?
--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.