Next up on The Rachel Maddow Show, human traffickers decry the suffering they witness in human trafficking ...
At the rate she's going, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow is on track to earn an Emmy for best cable comedy * (* -- unintentional category).
On Sept. 30, the ever-excitable Maddow spoke with Congressman Pete DeFazio, 12-term paleo-Democrat from Oregon, about an organization called Concerned Taxpayers of America spending $160,000 in television ads criticizing DeFazio.
The segment featured footage of DeFazio appearing at the organization's address on Capitol Hill, Washington Post videographer along for the ride, in DeFazio's attempt to learn more about the group.
Maddow indignantly described how Concerned Taxpayers of America, based on its September filing with the FEC, appears little more than a front for unidentified opponents of DeFazio to run ads against him.
The FEC filing, Maddow said, was submitted by the group's treasurer, Jason Miller, "a long-time Republican congressional staffer" now working for Jamestown Associates, a Republican lobbying firm.
"That is who is running Concerned Taxpayers of America," Maddow said (the segment can be seen in its entirety here). "So, you know, take the Concerned Taxpayers at their word. Maybe they are an organization designed to engage regular citizens, designed to engage people of all walks of life. But it doesn't really seem like that. It seems like the Concerned Taxpayers of America is basically just a piece of paper, filed at the FEC. Somebody filed that piece of paper at the FEC 29 days ago and now $160,000 from Lord knows where is being spent to get rid of Pete DeFazio, totally bigfooting all other spending in that race. And nobody is allowed to know who's behind it until the damage is already done."
"That's the way that politics works now," Maddow lamented (first part of embedded video starts here). "It's not news that corporations and rich people try to get their way in politics. We've talked a lot, even just this year, about corporations and billionaires funding fake grassroots groups like Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, right? But at least those organization do stuff. They, for example, take David Koch's oil and chemical industry fortune money, and they buy hot air balloons and they fly hot air balloons around the country talking about how global warming is a bunch of hot air. Whatever you think about that, at least they are doing something."
"But this year," Maddow added, "in 2010, in these elections for the first time, nobody is pretending that these 'organizations', these groups, are doing anything but laundering money. ... You can just launder your money through a fake organization that you have some Republican lobbyist set up in five minutes at GoDaddy.com. ... Money laundering -- money laundering on a grand scale, money laundering, that's what it is, to take over the Congress of the United States of America, there is no ceiling on what you can spend."
It was with no apparent irony that one of Maddow's guests the following night was veteran Democratic operative (though never identified as such) Craig Varoga, who appears to have toiled as a launderer himself.
Maddow introduced Varoga as president of Patriot Majority PAC, a political action committee that created an ad criticizing GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle's staunch opposition to abortion. Maddow asked Varoga about his organization's background and sources of funding, leading to this evasive, stutterstep of a response from Varoga (second part of embedded video, starting at 1:38) --
MADDOW: Craig, tell me a little bit about Patriot Majority. What is your group? How long have you been around? Who funds you?
VAROGA: Uh, Patriot Majority's been around since 2005. We were here before the Tea Party, we'll be here after it, and we'll be here after this election. Uh, we're funded by, you know, I mean, individuals all across the country, uh, you know, our website, you know, we seek individual contributions. Uh, you know, and we're funded by people who think that, you know, we need to, you know, draw a line in the sand and fight these radicals, you know, who are actually, you know, you know, trying to, uh, you know, undo the progress that we've made as a country.
Guess it was too much for Varoga to respond with a straightforward answer along the lines of -- we're funded mainly by labor unions. This ran the risk of, uh, you know, candor.
But as shown at CampaignMoney.com, the vast bulk of Patriot Majority's funding -- at least 77 percent of the $11.2 million it has received since 2005 -- has come from unions. More than half that amount, $6.3 million, has been donated in the last two years alone from a single contributor -- the American Federation of State, Federal, County and Municipal Employees. As in, taxpayer-funded AFSCME.
Not that you'd learn this from Patriot Majority's Web site, which reflects Varoga's opacity. It's "About" page, for example, makes no mention of Varoga or anyone else in the PAC. Another link, "Issues," consists of a blog roll that dutifully includes numerous conservative sites, such as Michelle Malkin and Drudge. This noble attempt to appear bipartisan quickly dissolves after a visit to the site's "News and Events" link -- which lists stories and blog posts critical of Republicans and flattering toward Democrats. And you'll search in vain for information on the PAC's funding, except for this curiously thin gruel.
Here's how it works: What appears like a local groundswell is in fact the creation of two men -- Craig Varoga and George Rakis, Democratic Party strategists who have set up a number of so-called 527 groups, the non-profit election organizations that hammer on contentious issues (think Swift Boats, for example).
Varoga and Rakis keep a central mailing address in Washington, pulling in soft money contributions from unions and other well-padded sources to engage in what amounts to a legal laundering system. The money -- tens of millions of dollars -- gets circulated around to different states by the 527s, which pay for TV ads, Internet campaigns and lobbyist salaries, all while keeping the hands of the unions clean -- for the most part.
The system helps hide the true sources of funding, giving the appearance of locally bred opposition in states from Oklahoma to New Jersey, or in the case of the Tea Party Web site, in Illinois.
And this whitewash is entirely legal, say election law experts, who told FoxNews.com that this arrrangment (is) more or less the norm in Washington.
... a legal status apparently also extending to Concerned Taxpayers of America, since the civic-minded Maddow never told viewers of her plans to notify the proper authorities.