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Grassroots? Clean Money? Small Donations? New Revelations from Unity08 Lawsuit

What Unity08 Tells You

Public Statements on the Unity08 Website

Unity08 intends to fix this broken system by electing a bipartisan “Unity Ticket” to the White House in ‘08 funded solely by small-dollar donations from everyday Americans. As a result the Unity08 President and Vice President will enter office not with favors owed… (link)

…we have voluntarily put a limit of $5,000 on any individual contribution. And beyond an early start-up fund of approximately a million dollars raised that way, we expect to be able to fund operations via much smaller contributions raised on the web. (link)

Unity08 intends counter this big money trend by electing a bipartisan ticket to the White House on the strength of small-dollar contributions (link)

What can The Clean Money Pledge accomplish?

If enough people sign it, candidates will be concerned enough (or inspired enough) to launch small gift fundraising that can help get the big money out of politics… (link)

Unity08’s Clean Money Pledge is a perfect example – using the internet for many small givers to wrest power from the few big givers. (link)

Step One in transforming our politics is for you to replace the Fat Cat with the small contributor…(link)

Unity08 was designed to empower the people to join forces and transform America’s politics. Small campaign contributions gathered online instead of big contributions bundled on K Street is a good example. (link)

[FAQ Question]Why do you think candidates can raise the money they need in small amounts? (link)

So why is politics still stuck in the Fat Cat world? Because it seems easier to use the old ways of special inside groups like the Republicans’ “Pioneers” and “Rangers” and “Super-Rangers” to raise enormous sums than to count on ordinary people to help. And what many of the Fat Cats really want are some special favors – an ambassadorship, a night in the White House Lincoln bedroom, or who knows what kind of deal in the middle of the next presidency. (link)

If we’re going to transform politics we have start right now in the early stages of the presidential campaigns to get rid of the corrosive effect of Fat Cat money. (link)

Our effort will be funded through small-dollar donations from people like you. Please give now. (link)

A new grassroots organization called Unity08… (link)

Transparency is essential to the public’s trust. (link)

…the spirit of greater financial transparency, which is sorely lacking in politics today. (text removed from website on January 5, 2007)

Talking the talk won’t [sic] works only for those who have walked the walk. (link)

What Unity08 Tells The Judge

Unity08 v FEC Lawsuit, filed 1/10/07 in Washington, DC District Court

Plantiffs request that this Court… preliminarily and permanently enjoin the FEC from any enforcement of Unity08’s alleged obligation to register with the FEC, report its receipts or expenditures, or limit the amount of donations that it receives from contributors or the amount that it expends.

Unity08 estimates that qualifying for ballot access in all thirty-seven (37) states could cost as much as $10 million. Additional expenses may result from the need to challenge a state’s refusal to qualify Unity08 for the ballot, or to defend a challenge to a ballot qualification.

Unity08 is currently soliciting funds primarily through the Internet and personal contacts…. It concluded, however, that, in order to have the best possible chance of raising monies to defray the cost of obtaining ballot access as an organization in thirty-seven (37) states prior to the 2008 election, it should accept donations from individuals, which may be in the form of loans, without limitation as to the amount.

As a “political committee” Unity08 would be required to register and file reports of receipts and expenditures with the FEC, and it would have to limit its donations from individuals to $5,000 per year, including loans, which under the Act are treated as “contributions” that are subject to the Act’s restrictions.

In light of the threat of prosecution by the FEC and possible civil and criminal penalties for itself and its donors, Unity08 has voluntarily restricted donations from individuals to $5,000 per year. Without this threat, Unity08 would seek and receive much larger donations and loans from willing contributors. The individual Plaintiffs to this suit are contributors to Unity08 and would all have contributed substantially more than $5,000 except for the threat of prosecution by the FEC that could result in civil or criminal penalties.

Unity08 has had to curtail efforts to communicate its ideas and solicit supporters. It has delayed the commencement of its petition drives, and it has limited the number of states in which it can circulate petitions. Every day its petition drives are delayed, its goal of fielding candidates for president and vice president in the fifty states is threatened.

The challenged restriction on Unity08 does not purport to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption in the electoral process, and serves no such purpose in this case.

Under these circumstances, the FEC cannot legitimately be preventing Unity08 from corrupting a federal election or creating the appearance of corruption in the electoral process.

Regulation as a “political committee” means limitations on the amount a party can accept in contributions from an individual. By improperly limiting the amount Unity08 can accept from individuals by mistakenly deeming it a “political committee,” the FEC is burdening Plaintiff’s ability to raise money…

Plaintiffs seek a judgment… Permanently enjoining enforcement of the FEC’s ruling and Unity08’s alleged obligation to register and report, and limit the amount of contributions and expenditures…

[FAQ Question] Would you and your candidates have to abide by FEC regulations?

Of course. (link)

The FEC will determine whether or not we are a political committee for FEC purposes. Obviously we will follow their opinion. (link)

“This action challenges the legality and constitutionality of the Federal Election Commission’s (“FEC” or the “Commission”) recent determination (Advisory Opinion 2006-20) that Unity08 is a “political committee” as that term is defined by the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, 2 U.S.C. 431 et seq. (“FECA” or the “Act”).

“Unity08’s expenses to qualify for a ballot position as a party… do not fall within the scope of FECA”

“Plantiffs request that this Court… preliminarily and permanently enjoin the FEC from any enforcement of Unity08’s alleged obligation to register with the FEC, report its receipts or expenditures, or limit the amount of donations that it receives from contributors or the amount that it expends.”

Unity08’s 12-page filing, obtained as a matter of public record through the PACES system, may be read in its entirety here in unadulterated form as a pdf file.

“..the subject of bookkeeping is now occupying entirely too much real estate here – I can only imagine that this has been frustrating for people looking for a robust discussion about building a vibrant community to reclaim our politics.

Now, I implore our online community to focus its considerable energy and potential on how we win the White House in 2008. Please help us sign up new online members and grow this movement.”

Doug Bailey, CoFounder of Unity08, January 5, 2007

Why was it so imperative that Americans stop looking at Unity08’s “bookkeeping?”

Now we know part of the answer.

I have posted this here to provide a factual comparison between what Unity08 says on its website:

…that it is committed to a movement based on small donations, and that it will follow the regulations of the FEC…

and what Unity08 says to a federal judge in its lawsuit:

…that it is committed to a movement based on large donations, and that it does not intend to follow the regulations of the FEC…

One set of statements describe an organization committed to grassroots populism and financial transparency.

Another set of statements describe an organization seeking to avoid financial transparency (particularly regarding the source of loans) and desperate to obtain large donations from a small number of insider contacts.

Which is the real Unity08?

4 thoughts on “Grassroots? Clean Money? Small Donations? New Revelations from Unity08 Lawsuit”

  1. Juniper says:

    Jim, I’d like to read more about your conclusions about what you’ve found here. I see that they claim to have a voluntary limit of $5,000 per contribution, but then are suing the FEC for the right to take contributions over the $5,000 amount, even though they plan to be campaigning for candidates and really operating as an alternative political party.

    What stands out for you?

  2. Jim says:

    Juniper, thanks for writing. I’ve added a bit at the end to sum it up.

  3. Ralph says:

    It speaks to the absolute corruption of the mainstream press that they have done “stories” on Unity ’08 without mentioning any of this controversy.

    Surely a basic database search for “Unity ’08” would turn up much of this material.

    Would YOU do a “news” story on an organization without Googling them?

    What the HELL is wrong with the media?

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