ACORN announced today that former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger has agreed to head ACORN’s investigation of itself. Leaving aside the valid question of whether any ACORN-funded probe can actually be “independent,” Harshbarger is a particularly bad choice.
Harshbarger has impressive-sounding credentials, but he is well-known for his political and ideological intensity. A quick Google check of his affiliations shows him sharing the program as a speaker at a Campaign Institute event in 2004 with Dan Cantor who is described as “founding executive director of the Working Families Party (WFP),” an ACORN front. See New York ACORN Front Group Based in New Orleans Gets Taxpayer Money.
ACORN board member Maude Hurd was eager to point out today that Harshbarger is “the former President and CEO of Common Cause, the good government organization.”
Harshbarger was indeed head of Common Cause for three years, where he demonstrated a deep political bias. A case in point was his cooperation in Nancy Pelosi’s hypocrisy on campaign finance. Of course, Pelosi has punted on whether ACORN should receive tax money.
In 2002, we caught Pelosi violating the clearest and most basic election law of all, the limits on campaign contributions, long championed by Common Cause. Acting on our Complaint, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) fined two Pelosi “leadership” political action committees. Under conciliation agreements reached with the FEC, the two committees — PAC to the Future and Team Majority — had to pay $21,000.
But that did not stop Harshbarger from singing Pelosi’s praises for her efforts to tighten campaign contribution law even further, in the form of Shays-Meehan, the House companion to McCain-Feingold.
At an April 2002 kick-off event in San Francisco for the so-called Campaign Finance Victory Tour, Harshbarger toasted Pelosi and proclaimed:
The cynics in Washington said we couldn’t beat the entrenched power of big money, and thanks to courageous, independent people like Nancy Pelosi, we started the job.
House members may have “leadership PACs” in addition to their own campaign committee. The purpose of leadership PACs is to make contributions to the campaigns of other Congressional candidates. Team Majority made thirty-six contributions to candidates in the amount of $5,000 each, the legal limit, to candidates that already had received contributions from PAC to the Future.
NLPC alleged that Pelosi operated two leadership PACs in order to circumvent contribution limits. Leo McCarthy, the treasurer of both PACs and the former Lt. Governor of California, candidly admitted to Roll Call that the “main reason” for setting up the second PAC was to “give twice as much (sic) hard dollars.”
Pelosi complained of “extremists in the Republican Party who have repeatedly tried to undermine campaign finance reform” and of “sneaky tactics employed by the Republicans” to weaken Shays-Meehan.
NLPC’s Complaint cited a second circumvention of the law, that of the limits on amounts donors may give to PACs. Team Majority, the newer PAC, reported sixteen contributions of $5,000 each from donors who also gave the maximum to Pelosi’s other PAC. Five of the donors gave to both PACs on the same day.
Within twenty-four hours of NLPC’s Complaint, Pelosi announced she would shut down Team Majority and retrieve contributions already made to candidates. Of course, Common Cause, under Scott Harshbarger, was silent about all this.
Common Cause, whose foundation is funded in part by leftist billionaire George Soros, at the same time conducted a highly personal and vituperative campaign against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Common Cause alleged that DeLay had violated IRS law and House rules by establishing a charity called Celebrations for Children, which was building a 50-acre residential facility for disadvantaged children in Fort Bend County, Texas.
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