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CampaignAccountabilityWatch.org is a new campaign to bring campaign finance reform to future elections through enforcement of existing laws. These laws are robust and clear yet they are not being used to reign in abuses such as (1) using public charities to raise and spend hundreds of millions in secret money for partisan attacks, (2) registering partisan electioneering organizations as public charities and trade associations instead of political action committees, (3) soliciting and spending vast amounts of secret money from foreign sources in federal elections, and (4) coordinating electioneering between outside organizations and political campaigns.
In the 2010 election, hundreds of millions was spent by outside groups, much of it secretly solicited from and donated by wealthy individuals and corporations to organizations registered as public charities and trade associations. These groups then acted as arms of a political party and political action committees, coordinating their activities with each other, with candidates and with the national party. Why were they able to do this? Because the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”) is in gridlock and ineffective, and laws are not being enforced.
But the FEC is not the only way that campaign finance violations can be enforced. In fact, the Federal Election Campaign Act specifically states that “willful and knowing” violations of the Act, such as those committed by seasoned political operatives, should be prosecuted by the Department of Justice using felony criminal statutes carrying up to five years in prison and a hefty fine. Also, many states have their own criminal laws proscribing campaign finance violations, which carry very harsh sentences. For example, Tom Delay was recently convicted in Texas for such violations and is facing life in prison.
Our campaign is focused on using these criminal statutes to secure campaign finance reform. We recognize that the DISCLOSE Act will not pass in the current Congress, and that the FEC will not reign in the current abuses. The conventional wisdom is that the only way to deal with excessive money on one side is to match it on the other side, a kind of billion-dollar electoral money race that undermines democracy.
Our campaign strategy is simple—use the criminal statutes already on the books to prosecute the organizations and the principals of those organizations that masterminded the violations of the statutes. Once the criminal prosecutions begin, several things will happen: first, excesses, abuses and violations will stop or at least greatly diminish; second, donors, both individual and corporate, will stop making secret donations to organizations that abuse and skirt the law; third, Congress will see the wisdom of having a strong FEC with fearless Commissioners who will enforce the laws before they are violated.