Has political campaign finance just become the stuff of science fiction?
During the waning days of Star Trek: The Next Generation, ensign Wesley Crusher returned to the starship Enterprise, only to be recruited into a strange group of beings who travel through space and time, re-engineering reality. I feel as if I am encountering something of that sort when I read about the exploits of a political consultant named David Mason.
Until six years ago, David Mason was the Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission. He presided over the FEC as it fell into factional bickering, so divided that the body took no action to deal with even the most flagrant violations of campaign finance laws, such as the rampant growth in tax-exempt churches campaigning for presidential candidates. Mason wasn’t a neutral political actor. He had worked as a political operative in the Reagan Administration and with Republican members of Congress, before going on to become Vice President at the right wing Heritage Foundation.
These days, Mason works as a Senior Vice President for Compliance at the political consulting firm Aristotle, which specializes in what it calls “outsourcing” for PACs. Essentially, if someone wants to funnel money through a political action committee, but doesn’t want to do any of the work, Aristotle can be hired to do the work, creating yet another level of obscurity to prevent public scrutiny.
So, it’s not surprise to find out that David Mason has gotten involved in a PAC that’s trying to change the outcome of the Republican U.S. Senate primary New Hampshire, which is scheduled to take place on the 9th of September. What is surprising is the geographical chutzpah of Mason’s efforts.
The PAC, set up by David Mason, is called the New Hampshire PAC to Save America.
David Mason doesn’t live in New Hampshire, though. He lives in Lovettsville, Virginia, and he works in Washington D.C. The New Hampshire address that Mason provided as the supposed headquarters of the New Hampshire PAC to Save America is also listed as an address for:
– The New Hampshire Bar Association
– The Cleveland, Waters, and Bass law firm
– The Associated Press
I found this information through the FEC reporting site for independent expenditures, something that was set up after David Mason left the FEC. That site reveals that, yesterday, the New Hampshire PAC to Save America spent $16,500 in order to support the U.S. Senate candidacy of Republicans Jim Rubens. That money was paid to a company… not in New Hampshire… but in Massachusetts.
This isn’t the first time that the New Hampshire PAC to Save America has used its money to prop up Rubens… and to slam the Republicans who are competing against Rubens. The New Hampshire PAC to Save America is, for example the source of the money behind a site called “The Real Scott Brown Voting Record”. That site trumpets Jim Rubens as an “authentic” candidate.
How can a candidate backed by a “New Hampshire PAC” that was created by a Virginia political insider who works for a Washington D.C. political consulting firm, using media companies in Massachusetts be considered authentic? Maybe Rubens is authentic in the sort of Star-Trek-Wesley-Crusher-Skipping-Through-Time-And-Space sense of authenticity, where geography doesn’t matter.
If a Virginia-DC-Massachusetts political operation can use its money to control the U.S. Senate election in New Hampshire, though, does that mean that residents of Virginia, Washington D.C. and Massachusetts can vote in New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate election this November? Would that be authentic?