Wednesday, September 20, 2006

COMPAC and Its Consequences

As COMPAC's constitutional challenge to a San Jose campaign finance restriction continues, there is quite a bit of discussion regarding COMPAC and the ordinance in question around the blogosphere.

Our counterpart SJI gave some analysis here. The article parallels some of the arguments made by conservatives during their defense of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth ads brought out against John Kerry during the 2004 election. Essentially, McEnergy - just like Bush did - that "they started it". Specifically, he writes:

"The Chamber took a page out of their book and did the same. The recent outrage over the Chamber’s spending, led by the local Democratic Party leaders and the impregnable labor bosses, was a hypocritical act unparalleled even in the annals of political chicanery."

I am too young to be familiar with these times that McEnery discusses "twenty years ago when I was mayor". However, I am pretty familiar with the tone and pace of THIS election. I HAVE received "independent expenditures" from the Chamber; I have NOT received "independent expenditures" from Labor. McEnery's mistake is grouping labor/Cindy/the Local Democratic Party as an undifferentiated mass. If 20 years ago, labor sent out hit-pieces as "independent expenditures" against then-Mayor McEnery, it does not make Chavez a hypocrite for condemning mailers sent out bashing her today. If I'm mistaken...and if these type of mailers ARE being sent out by groups supporting Cindy bashing Chuck, then she should stand by his side in condemning them as well. But the focus is on COMPAC now. They broke the law. Their defense should not be that labor started it.

The part of McEnery's article that was distasteful, however, came from his bashing of the police. The particulars:

* "Now, they (the police) have become the epitome of all that we hold disreputable in politics: insider dealing, cronyism, and circumvention of the law"

* "Perhaps doing the right thing—adhering to the spirit as well as the letter of our ethics laws—means little to our cops nowadays."

* "Is there anyone wearing the blue and carrying a badge that can feel shame anymore?"

Rich Robinson's rant takes a decidedly different approach to the COMPAC controversy. Robinson contends that the law itself is unconstitutional. He declares that

"a Federal Judge who has been properly educated in a competent Law School on first amendment issues, should toss the entire arbitrary, unreasonable, over-reaching, vague and unenforcable San Jose Campaign Finance Ordinance into the trash heap–where it belongs."

I am curious how Robinson draws these conclusions. The Supreme Court in McConnell v. FEC affirmed the use of SOME limitations on campaign spending. The decision itself carves out a number of rules and standards governing the topic - but certainly does not outlaw these type of restrictions altogether. I'm no lawyer. But I am pretty sure that the issue is not as open and shut as Robinson characterizes it. Regardless, we, here at MW, welcome further enlightenment. If Robinson or anybody else would like to discuss the legal landscape, we would be happy to post it as a separate column.

Robinson claims that these mailers were thoroughly discredited. I'm just not sure if they were. The furor they created along with the headlines they are still producing (like "Mailers Bashing Chavez") have certainly hurt the one-time frontrunner. COMPAC is acting fast and - as was pointed out in our article yesterday - wants to get back in this race to take a couple more knocks at Cindy before November.

In any case, the consequences of this controversy remain to be seen. This website has previously discussed efforts by some local leaders to boycott COMPAC's bbq. After the mailers, Congressmember Zoe Lofgren asked for her name NOT to be used on COMPAC's site. Read her letter to Nancy Williams here: http://www.lofgrenforcongress.com/docs/COMPAC-letter-8-5-06.pdf. A one-time nonpartisan organization will probably face more of this heat from Dems if (1) they win their suit and (2) they continue to go after Chavez. I don't think anybody thinks that COMPAC's hands should be tied on speaking out about politics and issues. I think Lofgren and many others object to what she calls the "unilateral 'trash(ing)' (of) one candidate for local office" in violation of local law.

When a verdict is rendered by Hon. Judge Ware, you'll find it here first...

11 Comments:

At 4:58 PM, Blogger SanJoseLady said...

I want to know exactly how many times either the Santa Clara County Democratic Party or the SBLC has been fined and found in violation of our city election laws.

Seems to me I remember when Ed Voss ran against Terry Gregory, and Voss was fined for a violation....oh, and no, Voss was not supported by either the SBLC or the local Democratic Party (given the mess Gregory created one can safely say that both the local Dem party and SBLC are sorry they ever supported him).

If McEnery wants to claim "well they did it too" why doesn't he point to a specific case rather then making a blanket statement with no fact to back it up?

The bottom line is that COMPAC broke, knowingly, existing law. If their claim is that the law is unconstitutional, then they should have sued BEFORE they sent out those mailers, which would then have addressed the issue before hand. The reality is they were trying so hard to be slick that they slipped themselves up.

There is no excuse for what they did, and to NOW claim that the law is unconstitutional doesn't change the fact that according to the laws on the books in San Jose, COMPAC illegally sent out those mailers.

Case Closed.

 
At 5:37 PM, Anonymous concerned dem said...

...And yet somehow COMPAC tries to portray itself as some noble champions of free speech values.

 
At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Larry Hughes said...

I think Richard is right; laws like these are silly. My problem is that the group is changing the rules in the middle of the game. They should have sought a DJ to invalidate the law before they unilaterally went after Chavez.

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous SJI fan said...

McEnery was a great mayor and he is right on with his analysis. The climate in City Hall is dirty and secretive. Chavez has her cronies... Reed has his too. Not that big of a shocker!

 
At 7:13 PM, Anonymous d.h.k. said...

If only those that attended the BBQ knew what their money was being spent on!

 
At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow - Zoe dropped the bomb on Compac. That was some serious shit there.

 
At 10:58 PM, Anonymous not an attorney... said...

but i think RR may be incorrect on his blanket conclusions re: legality of ordinance. poster is right that mcconnell affirmed some restrictions but i think it's an over-simplification to say that it necessarily encompassed this type of law - especially since mcconnell only reviewed finance restrictions for federal elections. check out this chart for understanding the decision: http://www.fecwatch.org/law/court/mcconnelltable.asp

 
At 11:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with Chavez's campaign is that Seaton's whining is getting old. COMPAC beat Seaton at his own game.

 
At 12:20 AM, Anonymous SanJoseOutside.com said...

Anonymous: what is Seaton's role in Cindy's campaign?

In my years of surveying San Jose elections, I've never seen "the machine" in full gear like this before.

You got the Mercury News bashing Cindy with every article...

You got Pat Dando and her pet project COMPAC tricking people into donating to her hate-machine...

You got Scott Herhold writing STUPID, ignorant (and sometimes racist) columns every chance he gets...

You got Pat's mentor McEnery playing around on his little blog romanticizing trivial issues and pretending like he has some moral high ground...

And through it all, everybody ignores the fact that Chuck's ethics over the past few years have been dubious at best.

 
At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee whiz, RC, I dont know. Why dont you tell us.

 
At 1:41 PM, Anonymous San Jose Gentleman said...

San Jose Lady, will you marry me?

 

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