They're baaaaaaack. Barack Obama's election-year goon squad kicked into high gear this week by kicking the president's fiercest opponents in the teeth and targeting their pocketbooks. Returning to bully business as usual, the Obama campaign launched a brazen salvo against two prominent conservative critics and their legions of private citizen donors.
Let's be clear (to use Obama's favorite phrase): This is not just the politics of personal destruction. It's a vendetta of campaign finance destruction. Under the guise of "disclosure," Team Obama is exploiting the power of high government office to intimidate lawful, peaceful contributors who support limited-government causes.
In a scathing fundraising e-mail appeal, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina name-checked wealthy free-market philanthropists Charles and David Koch -- along with a growing movement of grassroots conservatives who have freely, voluntarily and legally given money to the Koch-founded nonprofit activist group Americans for Prosperity and its sister foundation. As a speaker at several AFP events over the past three years, I've met thousands of like-minded, hardworking Americans who support their work at the local, state and federal levels.
The Koches' sins are to 1. follow tax law and protect the identities of donors to their charitable organizations, and 2. exercise their free speech by funding advocacy ads informing the public about the Obama administration's jobs toll destruction and failed green energy "investments." (Their most recent TV spot zeroed in on the taxpayer-funded Solyndra bankruptcy.)
"When you attempt to drown out (Americans') voices through unlimited, secret contributions to pursue a special-interest agenda that conflicts with what's best for our nation, you must expect some scrutiny of your actions," Messina railed. The threat of scrutiny was backed by Obama himself, whose official campaign Twitter account directed 12 million-plus followers this week to "add your name to demand that the Koch brothers make their donors public."
But Obama's own former top officials run a so-called super PAC (Priorities USA) that also maintains nonprofit status and subsidizes advocacy ads while protecting its donor base. The White House, of course, is mum on the unlimited, secret contributions that Obama is now encouraging wealthy liberals and lobbyists to make in pursuit of his own special-interest agenda -- i.e., re-election.
The president's flapping lips are also sealed when it comes to applying his disclosure standards to the shadowy, George Soros-backed Center for American Progress, which has supplied the Obama administration with countless top policy staffers, including special Department of Health and Human Services assistant Michael Halle and HHS Director Jeanne Lambrew, a former senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. CAP founder John Podesta was Obama's transition chief, overseeing the backroom process of rewarding friends and allies with plum positions. CAP flacks shrugged off conflict-of-interest questions: "We respect the privacy of supporters who have chosen not to make their donations public," CAP spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri said.
As for respecting the privacy rights of Obama's foes? Not so much.
It seems to me no small coincidence that this disclosure charade comes just as numerous tea party organizations are reporting that the Internal Revenue Service has targeted them for audits. According to Colleen Owens of the Richmond (Va.) Tea Party, several fiscal-conservative activist groups in Virginia, Hawaii, Ohio and Texas have received a spate of IRS letters. The missives demand extensive requests to identity volunteers, board members and ... donors.
This is B.O.'s M.O. His bully brigade did the same to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its donors during the November 2010 midterms as payback for the organization's ads opposing the federal health care takeover. And in 2008, Obama's allies at a Soros-tied outfit sent out "warning" letters to 10,000 top GOP givers "hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions." Witch hunt leader Tom Matzzie, formerly of Soros-funded MoveOn.org, bragged of "going for the jugular" and said the warning letter was just the first step, "alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives."
Matzzie also advertised a $100,000 bounty for dirt on conservative political groups "to create a sense of scandal around the groups" and dissuade donors from giving money. The effort was cheered by Accountable America adviser Judd Legum, founder of Think Progress -- the same group that led the attack on the Chamber of Commerce and is run by Podesta's Center for American Progress. Just as with the Obama super PAC led by former White House officials, Matzzie's group "Accountable America" was a 501(c)(4) nonprofit entity that shielded the identity of its donors.
Oh, and remember this? In 2008, St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch and St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, both Obama promoters, threatened to bring criminal libel charges against anyone who spread what they considered "false criticisms" of their Dear Leader.
It is no small exaggeration to conclude that Team Obama's dead aim is to chill conservative speech and criminalize conservative dissent. All Americans for prosperity must push back with one voice: No, you can't.
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