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Unity08, Financial Disclosure and Mal-Intent

Here and in a Unity08 “shoutbox” forum, I have asked 12 questions about the financial transparency of Unity08. These regard discrepancies within and between the following:

1. 2nd and 3rd quarter reports to the IRS, which as mandated by law are to detail contributions and expenses.

2. Statements by Unity08 that it is dedicated to “the spirit of greater financial transparency, which is sorely lacking in politics today,” and also that “Transparency is essential to the public’s trust.

3. A public commitment, not kept, by Unity08 to update its list on this website of all donors giving more than $200 to the organization, once a month. It is nearly three months since that list has been updated.

These are typical questions for any national political movement. They should be expected for any movement that aims to elect a president and a vice president to lead the country, especially when that organization derides secrecy in other parties and dedicates itself to financial transparency.

I have not received any substantive answers to the twelve questions as of this morning.

Early this morning, Anya T. Harris, a veteran marketing and business executive who is now working as Chief Operating Officer for Unity08, wrote the following comment:

All I can tell you is that we are working on reviewing everything to ensure accuracy in all that is reported to the IRS and on the web site. As you can imagine we are a small, streamlined organization with a big agenda to accomplish. I will repeat once again that we will report on the list of $200+ donors as soon as the reports are ready and complete. There’s no more I can say on this subject. The tone and repetition of your questions assumes there some mal-intent, which is frankly curious to us all.

Why dont you help us grow the movement with the same level of intensity? We would welcome your substantive help in growing the movement which is intended to transform a badly broken political system.

I’ve responded on the original thread regarding financial transparency itself. But my motives and character have been questioned. I think that’s a distraction to the problem of a lack of financial transparency, so I’ve set aside a new thread to keep the question of my intent from clouding the need for Unity08 to accurately report its finances as required by law.

Here is my response about the accusation of “mal-intent” and my intent:

1. It’s interesting that questions dedicated to correcting errors in Unity08′s operation, and to establishing the financial transparency Unity08 has already committed itself to, are received by the Unity08 leadership as “mal-intent.” Questions about financial transparency shouldn’t be perceived as “mal-intent” unless the answers to the questions about transparency shed a bad light on the organization. If the answers DON’T shed a bad light on the organization, then there should be no problem. If the answers DO shed a bad light on the organization, then it is even more important for the public to know those answers.

2. In case this accusation of “mal-intent” blossoms into full-fledged character assassination, let me over-anticipate. I am not now, nor have I ever been, either a member, an employee, or a beneficiary of any political party, including the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. I am not now, nor have I ever been, either a member, an employee, or a beneficiary of any 527 or PAC that might be a competitor to Unity08. I have no financial gain to make from Unity08′s demise. I am nobody’s shill. My name is James Matthew Cook. My address is 1287 Hunter Avenue, Columbus, OH 43201. I am married and I have two kids, two cats, and a dog. I have a mole just below my right nostril. My blood type is O negative.

3. I’d love for a viable political movement outside the political party structures to arise.

4. I will give all my support to such a viable political movement if it:
a) is not an elitist insider operation, but rather a “grassroots organization,” which Unity08
claimed to be in its press release announcing its formation
b) is transparent in its finances (as is required by law), allowing citizens to verify the sources
of funding and influence upon the organization’s leadership.
c) pursues the welfare of the people of the United States, rather than the
welfare of a subset of financial patrons, in its policy program.
d) supports the Constitution of the United States and the freedoms contained therein in its policy
program.

5. I will refrain from supporting a political movement if it:
a) is not a grassroots movement, but rather an elitist insider operation
b) is not transparent in its finances, preventing citizens from verifying the sources of funding and
influence upon the organization’s leadership.
c) pursues the welfare of a subset of financial patrons, rather than the welfare of the people of
the United States, in its policy program.
d) does not support the Constitution of the United States and the freedoms contained therein in its
policy program.

I have a number of questions regarding the insider versus grassroots and transparency versus opaqueness nature of the Unity08 organization. I have a set of questions about whether the organization is viable and therefore worth my time to support. These questions are regularly asked by donors to charities, and they are regularly asked by journalists of major political movements, one of which Unity08 openly aspires to become.

THAT is why I am asking those questions. And the more that Unity08 declines to answer these questions, the more loudly and repeatedly I will ask them.

So no, I don’t have “mal-intent.” I have a good intent. But I’m not loyal to Unity08. I’m loyal to people-centered politics, financial transparency, and the well-being of the country and its constitution. If Unity08 embraces those qualities [which it is not doing to date], I will fight tooth and nail for Unity08′s success. If Unity08 rejects those qualities [which it seems to be doing], I will do all I can to make the nature of that rejection clear to the public at large. And until the nature of Unity08 is clear, I will continue to ask questions to bring transparency to the matters at hand — a transparency that Unity08 has already committed itself to.

7 comments to Unity08, Financial Disclosure and Mal-Intent

  • Abe

    “Small, streamlined organization?”

    I thought they were a grassroots movement.

    You realize, of course, that “small, streamlined” is public-relationsese for “understaffed.” This is consistent with observations you have made that Unity ’08′s office space is on the scale of a walk-in closet.

    I think Anya Harris DOES answer your question: Unity ’08 is not keeping its promises because it is understaffed.

    Unfortunately, she does not answer your question in the kind of plain, straightforward English that a genuine grass roots organization would ideally use.

    This isn’t helped by her knee-jerk accusation of “mal-intent,” which is “curious to us all.” Now, just who is “us all” in this context–The throngs of grass-roots supporters? How would she know?

    No. “Us all” refers to the handful of other members of this “small, streamlined organization.”

  • Abe

    After taking another look at Unity ’08, I’m suspicious.

    Some marketing professionals get together and think:

    Now that major corporations pretty much write their own laws, politics is basically pure marketing. Marketing is what we do, so let’s cut out the middle man and launch our own brand. We’ve done the research, and we know what sells: “centrist,” “moderate,” “financially transparent,” “grass roots,” “unity,”…

    Is this what you think happened?

  • Anonymous

    Why does Unity08 want to be a 527 instead of a PAC? In order to hide their “soft money.” They don’t want to us to know what “special interests” are financing them.

    How do they get such cheap rent in the Watergate Hotel? Who is paying for that? Does anyone really believe their office is 5X7, or are they getting a special deal on rent as a special favor from their very special interests?

    Who is paying the salaries of their high-profile lawyers, their communications director, their wealthy insider COO? Who is paying for their market surveys? The whole thing is like Al Capone. You can see the money being spent, but you can’t see where it comes from. This, from an organization that makes a big deal out of “transparency.”

    Historically, third party candidates like Perot and Nader have helped the Republicans take votes away from Democrats by splitting off the moderate vote. Right now the Republicans are financing the Green Party. I have never know any Republican to be concerned about the environment– they are supporting the Green Party financially to split environmental votes away from the Democratic Party.

    The Republicans know they are in trouble because they are too far to the right and have too many nutty right-wing preachers in their camp.

    I suspect this is nothing more than another sneaky Republican tactic to siphon votes away from electable Democrats and elect more right-wing crackpots.

  • Bob S-K

    Good post. But I took her words (the ones you posted here) to mean that she thinks you think (because of your persistence) that *they* must have mal-intent. Could go either way, I guess.

  • Alan

    Bob, yes. The first time I read what she wrote, I thought she was saying Jim was the one with mal-intent. Then when I re-read it, I decided she was trying to say she thought Unity08 was accused of mal-intent, rather than just screwing up the report.

    Either way, Jim’s declaration of his intentions was good, as were his disclaimers about affiliations with any political parties. If the shoe is actually on the other foot, can Harris make similar declarations and disclaimers about Unity08′s special interests?

    It also occurs to me that Harris might be one of the dupes. Maybe she is more of a clerk than a manager. She certainly seems to be narrowly focused on the one little mechanical task of the IRS report. It looks like that is the only question she intends to answer, not the broader question of all the money that is being spent, where it comes from, and the PAC filing issue.

  • Bob S-K

    Yes! I had some of the same thoughts. Just after I posted my comment, I wondered if Ms. Harris is just a spokesperson and is waiting to be told what to tell the public. She may not even understand Jim’s questions. She might have been hired to deliver company lines without grasping what’s really going on.

  • Alan

    Judging by Ms. Harris’ fairly consistent remarks about “growing the organization,” it seems her focus is fundraising. Maybe the whole Unity08 organization is nothing but one big fundraising machine. I mean, what if they never find even one candidate to run–where will all those donations go?

    If they don’t answer the transparency questions, it will impact their fundraising ability, at least among the ordinary “grass roots” individuals they say they depend on.

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