You may remember Unity08, the political corporation dedicated to railing against big money while pursuing big donations, railing against lobbyists while putting lobbyists in key leadership positions, railing against the erosion of democracy while forbidding criticism of it, and getting its leaders good seats for the inauguration of its very own President of the United States. A year ago I declared Unity08 “superdead” after a federal judge ruled against Unity08, declaring the possibility of corruption, and after the unity08 website reverted to an advertisement for Peak Creative Media, the Republican public relations consulting firm within which Unity08 had its origins.
I’ve just discovered that I was wrong. Like a zombie in a horror movie, Unity08 has resurrected itself, filing an appeal against the judge who declared that like any other political committee, Unity08 would have to collect moderate-sized donations from large numbers of people, disclose the source and terms of its loans, and disclose other donations and expenditures under the auspices of the Federal Election Commission. Unity08, not satisfied with grassroots donations from the li’l folks that it once declared it wanted, has (with an unclear funding source, since it is not currently collecting donations) hired on lawyers to reverse the decision and enable big-money contributions and big loans without full disclosure. Not having absorbed the message of utter indifference it received during the 2008 election season, it is raring to gather money from a few big donors to impose itself upon America again in 2012.
Along the way, it’s trying to revise history. Unity08 claims in its brief that:
Unity08 was never intended to be a political party, and its “major purpose” was never to promote the nomination or election of any particular candidate or candidates for office. Unity08’s goal was to create an open-source platform for broader, bipartisan participation in order to change the tone and focus of political issues and to promote a new bi-partisan approach to politics focusing on the center of the political spectrum.
Unity08 sought to pursue its goals through a two-phase plan focused on changing the electoral process. The first phase involved obtaining ballot access for a Unity08 ticket in the 37 states that allowed an organization a ballot position without an associated candidate. The second phase involved using technology to create an online nomination convention whereby any person could register as a delegate to vote for candidates for President and Vice-President. No individuals would even declare themselves as candidates for Unity08’s nomination until that convention was held, at which point Unity08’s own purpose and activities would have been completed. At no time during either of these two phases would Unity08 have been affiliated in any way with any candidate, nor would it have sought to promote the nomination or election of any particular candidate.
Unity08 essentially intended to walk right up to the point at which it would have become a traditional political party, and then step away. By the time any particular candidate was identified and chosen, Unity08’s planned work would have been complete.
Unity08 never intended to actively campaign for any candidates; it always expected that the eventual candidates would form their own political committees and comply with FECA’s requirements. UBR-8-9. That the group’s founders expressed the hope or goal that the eventual Unity08 nominees would go on to win the election (FBR-6, 36-37) does not alter the analysis; Unity08 never intended to pursue that goal in any fashion subject to regulation under FECA.
Unity08 Never Intended to be a Political Party?
Is it true that “Unity08 was never intended to be a political party”? Let’s see what Unity08 cofounders and coleaders Douglas L. Bailey and Jerry Rafshoon had to say about that in an online chat that took place on February 16, 2007. This is what they wrote on the subject:
larry5m: What is being done to address the legal challenges to us acting as a political party? How are we going to be able to nominate accross party lines?
Jerry Rafshoon: We have a vast army of lawyers throughout the country preparing to challenge our challengers.
aloysius: Isn’t it possible that Unity08 will become a third party?
Doug Bailey: Good question. Once having elected a Unity Ticket to the White House, surely the two parties will get the message that voters have not been happy with how they have conducted their business and they will adjust to reaching for the middle and stop their bickering. If they do, Unity08 will have done its job, but if they dont, in all probability one of the two parties will go out of business and Unity08, by name or some other will become a permanent third party. That is, after all, the history of the birth of the Republican Party, when Lincoln was elected to the White House in 1860 and the Whig Party died.
Jerry Rafshoon: We have already established procedures in every state to assure ballot access. This is the earliest that any potential Independent or third party candidate has done this. Our research tells us that we are easily on 37 ballots and we have already established procedures to be positioned on the remaining 13. One of the top election law firms in Washington has taken our case, and is enthusiastically preparing to challenge anyone who challenges us. We are confident that we will be able to present the nominees of our party with a ballot position throughout the country.
kris24morris: Is Unity08 a political party, PAC or interest group?
Jerry Rafshoon: We’re a citizens’ movement that will eventually file as a party for
ballot position in each of the states.
Doug Bailey: When we talk about the Unity08 online convention, we also be the first-ever national presidential primary, obviously we are breaking precedent. On the other hand, everything about unity08 breaks precedent. It is certainly not a traditional primary, but some would argue that since it will be the largest primary in the history of American politics, that it is high time we redefine what a presidential primary is. It will count a whole lot more than all of the primaries after New Hampshire and South Carolina, because it will result in putting a party ticket on the ballot in November.
Jerry Rafshoon: Again, remember that by the nature of accepting our party’s nomination, and especially if they win the White House, each of these outstanding political leaders will have freed themselves from the shackles of intense partisanship.
Party, party, party, party, party! Funny word, “never.” It’s just one letter away from “ever.”
Unity08 Never Planned to Campaign for or Support a Candidate?
There’s that “never” word again. Back in the summer of 2007, Unity08 bought the domain name draftmichaelbloomberg.com, anticipating its effort to bring Michael Bloomberg into the presidential race — an effort that Unity08 cofounders Douglas Bailey and Jerry Rafshoon pursued directly in the early months of 2008. Politico reported that in the fall of 2007, Unity08 was holding secret talks with three separate possible presidential contenders… including Michael Bloomberg. And in March of 2008, Unity08 donated its money to the Draft Michael Bloomberg campaign, making its support for a particular candidate explicit.
In that February 2007 online chat, Unity08 cofounder Jerry Rafshoon specifically discussed Unity08 gathering hundreds of millions of dollars for its’ candidate’s presidential campaign:
We are contemplating that at the end of the nominating process, after 5 to 10 million people have nominated our ticket, that we will ask the Delegates “before you sign off, take out your credit card, and contribute $100 to the campaign”. If we do that, we could be handing the candidate $200-$300 million for the campaign, which could be enough to win.
Rafshoon expressed the hope in that chat that his efforts would get him a choice seat at the inauguration.
Douglas Bailey further declared in court depositions Unity08′s intention to sell the personal data it had collected about users to the eventual Unity08 candidate. That’s support, too: creepy, but support.
Unity08 rises like a zombie from the dead, mumbling and groping for more fatcat dollars to spend on itself. As the organization so openly dissembles about its past, the only way it can possibly succeed in the future is if the American people are just as zombified as Unity08.
So, you know, look for Unity08 to stick around.