Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Rob Reiner hearts Tarryl 

I was a little hard on Independence Party candidate John Binkowski in my 6th CD debate recap last night, but I appreciate the attention the IP gives to where money in the political process comes from and where it goes. (I just think their cures tend to misunderstand the role of the First Amendment in politics.) Another IP regular and former candidate, Dan Becker, identifies the role of PACs in the local races here in St. Cloud.

Of the six candidates, none are running as independents or with a third party.

Jeff Johnson and Tara Westby score the highest for taking in the lowest amount of special interest money. Johnson has done a fantastic job taking in only $300 of PAC money from just two groups. ...

I think it would be wonderful if Larry Haws and Tarryl Clark, as incumbents with great service records in the community, would give all that special interest money back and run on those merits.

Again, for full disclosure, as someone living in the district, I have contributed to both the Westby and Johnson campaigns. As I detailed a week ago, the Haws and Clark campaigns have gotten contributions from a number of big money, out-of-district donors. Now I think, contra Binkowski and, I think, Becker, that one has the right to free speech and give money to whomever one wishes, but there has to be disclosure, and the media (hearing me here, Larry?) should do a better job of reporting those contributions.

So what would it mean to you to learn that Rob Reiner was giving money to Tarryl Clark? You would not really know it. What you'd have to do is follow $2000 from Reiner to his buddy Al Franken, who runs a PAC called Midwest Values. (OK, you can stop laughing now.) Go to the MN Campaign Finance Board and look up that PAC's report. That money is transferred from the national PAC to the MN version. (Notice that Franken's name doesn't appear as the owner, but the list of contributors includes several Frankens.) Now go to where the money is distributed, and sure enough there's $500 to the Clark campaign.

The list of contributors to Midwest Values is a who's who of Hollywood of sorts, including Reiner, Barbra Streisand, Sydney Pollack, producer-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and one "J Smits" of Santa Monica. Numerous New York City-based movie people as well, including Geoffrey Rodkey (a screenwriter who should be shot just for The Shaggy Dog. Littlest would throw in RV for good measure.) You could have fun with that list! The PiPress story says Franken claims he has only received $60,000 from Hollywood, but this must include other PACs than that in Minnesota. Of the one here, $20,500 came from California, $25,850 from New York and only $12,500 from Minnesota. (The national campaign has been covered by Brian Maloney already.)

Hollywood has free speech too, and that should include political free speech (though undoubtedly Hollywood loves McCain-Feingold.) That speech should be subject to the widest disclosure however; as this blog's motto used to quote, sunlight is the best disinfectant.