Curiosity killed the cat, satisfaction brought him back, the saying goes. Details in a recent article at OpenSecrets.org, Shape-Shifting by Liberal Dark Money Groups Seems Meant to Confuse by Robert Maguire and Viveca Nova peeked my curiosity.
Maguire and Nova described an all-too-familiar scenario, one that my co-author Aaron Klein and I have covered in an endless string of articles and in our three books (a fourth is due out near the end of August) that also detail how progressive groups have a long history of inventing and re-inventing themselves and their groups’ activities.
At issue this time are “various groups seemed to have many of the same addresses and board members in common,” culminating with a constantly re-invented entity, Patriot Majority USA. In a string of name and function changes, the organization which launched prior to 2009 as Patriot Majority for a Stronger America (originally known as Midwest Alliance for a Better Government), and which terminated sometime in 2009, reemerged that year as American Alliance for Economic Development and changed its name in 2010 to Patriot Majority USA. Meanwhile, organizational leadership did not change, which I will address below. Several millions of dollars made their way in 2010 to America Votes and VoteVets, which in turn handed off (i.e. money-laundered) those millions to another entity launched in 2006 (its archived site says December 2005) and operated by Patriot Majority USA, which also terminated in 2011. The latter pretty much ceased its political activities after the 2012 campaign.
If you are really confused by this, it’s okay. You are meant to be. Maguire and Nova aptly focused their article on the “shape-shifting” by these progressive groups.
One of the issues OpenSecrets.org noted is that the reporting status held by these organizations exempts them from revealing all board members and donors. That said, we move on to another common thread, a key board member for all incarnations of the organization: Craig Varoga.
Ever heard of him? Me neither. However, you will quickly recognize the names of the politicians with whom he has been affiliated — for nearly twenty-five years.
His Varoga and Associates bio reads (all emphasis mine):
- Craig Varoga is president of Patriot Majority and one of America’s most successful political strategists. In 2010, Varoga ran the successful independent-expenditure campaign by Patriot Majority to re-elect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; Varoga was also chief strategist that year in the successful re-election of Maryland Governor and DGA Chair Martin O’Malley. In 2011, Varoga was chief strategist for Kentucky Family Values, an independent PAC that advocated for the re-election of Governor Steve Beshear; Varoga was also lead strategist and media consultant in 2011 for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. A native of Pittsburgh, graduate of Princeton University and long-time resident of Texas, Varoga has worked on the Presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Wesley Clark, John Kerry and Tom Vilsack. A top consultant in the victorious gubernatorial campaigns of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Varoga began his political career in Louisiana and writes a monthly column (“Ask the Campaign Doctor”) for Campaigns & Elections magazine.
The Wikipedia adds the following facts. Varoga
. is a founder of Patriotic Majority.
. is a partner at Independent Strategies.
. is associated with TheTeaPartyisOver.org.
. managed Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign and served as national field director for General Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign.
. managed the Democratic National Committee’s “Texas Truth Squad” campaign during the 2000 Bush/Gore Presidential campaign, attacking the record of Texas Governor, George W. Bush.
. was communications director to Senator Harry Reid (currently Senate Majority Leader) during the 1990s (more on this below).
The Wikipedia also reports:
- Public records show at least seven political organizations at the same address, involving either Craig Varoga or partner George Rakis, including (as revealed by donations in years given):
. The American Public Policy Committee (APPC) (2008 and 2010)
. Patriot Majority (2008 and 2010)
. Citizens for Progress (now Patriot Majority West) (2008 and 2010)
. Oklahoma Freedom Fund (2008)
. Mid Atlantic Leadership Fund (2010)
. Public Security Now (formerly Midwest Alliance for Better Government) (2008)
. Pioneer Majority (2008)
. Bluegrass Freedom Fund (2008)
The American Public Policy Committee, which developed anti-tea party ads, received all of its money in 2010 from Patriot Majority and from Citizens for Progress, which is also called Patriot Majority West.
In October 2010, Peter H. Stone of the Center for Public Integrity profiled Craig Varoga:
- Veteran Democratic Party operative Craig Varoga has quietly emerged as a significant player in the universe of outside political groups that during election years pump tens of millions of dollars into ads and get–out-the-vote drives to help members in tough races.
Patriot Majority, a 527 that Varoga set up in 2005, works closely with — and gets about half its funding — from several prominent unions such as the AFL-CIO and the SEIU. “We get money from all the major unions,” Varoga, 53, told the Center, adding that his group also has close political ties with America Votes, a broad coalition of some 400 liberal groups and unions.
Late last year, Varoga says that he decided to expand the group’s fundraising and political muscle by establishing an allied PAC, Patriot Majority PAC. Varoga timed the launch to capitalize on upcoming Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC and an advisory ruling that the Federal Election Commission was poised to release in late 2009. Together these decisions have given the green light to PACs to raise and spend unlimited funds and to engage in direct advocacy ads which urge voters to support or oppose specific candidates.
Screeeeech! Isn’t Citizens United just the most eevilll piece of legislation evah? Except when it benefits the progressive campaign money-laundering scheme, that is.
Also during the 2010 campaign season, Stone reports:
- Patriot Majority this year has been spending very liberally in Nevada to protect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. By Election Day, Varoga expects that his two groups will have run around $8 million of ads to help Reid triumph over GOP challenger and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.
Notice the common thread for Varoga’s career and longevity as a political operative? Harry “Dirty Harry” Reid.
In March 1989, Varoga was serving as Reid’s spokesman regarding a hypocritical laughable campaign funding matter. Judge for yourself.
- Three Democratic senators say an imported-car dealers’ group that spent almost $1 million against them in recent elections is really a foreign agent, and they want the Justice Department to investigate.
Leaders of the car group deny they are working for foreigners. And one yesterday called two of the senators “hypocrites” who asked for money from them and took $8,000 when it was offered.
“I think it’s nothing but sour grapes,” said Tom Nemet, chairman of the Auto Dealers and Drivers Free Trade PAC, a political action committee that last year spent nearly $2.6 million on House and Senate elections.
Of that total, about 83 percent was spent to help Republican candidates, according to figures compiled by the Federal Election Commission.
Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, both of Nevada, Bob Graham of Florida, and David Boren of Oklahoma signed a letter to the Justice Department alleging that the PAC is a foreign agent working for Japanese automobile manufacturers.
Ready for the punchline? Democrats also received funds from the same PAC, including Reid who received $3,000.
Enter Reid spokesman Craig Varoga, who said that Reid had no plans to “give back any of the money, despite his suspicions that the PAC is funded by foreign interests and the contributions would thus be against the law.”
That pretty much sums it all up, don’t ya’ think?