This morning I posted a brief story linking to Sacramento Bee coverage of a secretive, 2010 campaign effort against Sen. Barbara Boxer, and my post has been protested by a participant as inaccurate.
Here's the background: According to the Bee's Dan Morain, a group called Taxpayer Network raised and spent about $840,500 on TV ads that slammed Boxer for allegedly voting against military veteran benefits and supporting Viagra for child molesters.
Morain--an accomplished, veteran journalist--has called the ads "sleazy" and the Taxpayer Network "shady" after it hid the names of contributors from the public and didn't comply with IRS disclosure rules.
In the wake of my post, Dave Gilliard--the prominent California Republican political consultant tied to the group by Morain--has objected. Gilliard tells me the Taxpayer Network did in fact fully comply with IRS disclosure rules "but apparently not on Dan Morain's schedule."
Additionally, he said the group's sensational claims about Boxer were, despite my assertion otherwise, "true and taken directly from the Congressional Record."
To support his case, he provided me detailed links to the senator's voting record. (I am certain that Boxer's staffers wouldn't agree with Gilliard's interpretation of the votes.)
Gilliard--who is a top adviser to Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, Congressman Ed Royce and state Assemblyman Jim Silva--also claimed that I mistakenly interpreted the intentions of the Taxpayer Network as an effort to remove Boxer from office.
"In fact, Taxpayer Network's TV ads were unrelated to any election and did not mention any election," wrote Gilliard. "Its goal is to educate the public about the policies and policy-makers involved in issues of taxation, spending and regulation of the economy."
Because the group claims it is not trying to influence any federal election, Gilliard notes that it has no legal requirement to disclose its contributors to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
Never mind that the ads ran at the same time that Boxer was running for re-election and that the material was apparently designed and funded by people with a keen interest in removing her from office: California Republicans.
According to Gilliard, the secrecy involved in the operation is legitimate even if disturbing to journalists.
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He wrote, "I understand the frustration you and Dan have with the law that protects the privacy and free speech rights of non-profits like the Taxpayer Network, but I hope you will consider updating and correcting your story."
Believing that the group was indeed attempting to defeat Boxer and cheat disclosure laws, the California Young Democrats filed a complaint with the FEC.
The case is pending.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly