Thursday, January 15, 2015

Strong and Free fined $5000 but we still do not know the source of the money.

You may recall in the last election that a mystery group campaigned against certain Republicans seeking spots on the Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee. That group went by the name Strong and Free. It is alleged they campaigned against tea party leaning Republicans. One of those they campaigned against was Mark Winslow.

Marks Winslow is a current member of the State Executive Committee and a former employee of the  Tennessee Republican Party.  As a former employee of the party, he sued the State Party when he lost his job. Winslow in the last election worked to to elect Democrat Melissa Blackburn as a Davidson County judge. The Republican candidate in that race was Marian Fodyce.  Winslow served as campaign manager of the Blackburn campaign.  Blackburn won that campaign, defeating a better-qualified Republican and Winslow went on to work for the Democrat Judge. Winslow is still working to elect Democrats to public office.

I don't know if Strong and Free opposed Winslow's election to the State Executive Committee because he was considered a tea party leaning Republican or because he was a turncoat Republican who works to elect Democrats and defeat Republicans. (link) (link) (link)

Yesterday Strong and Free was fined $5000 by State election officials for failure to disclose contributions to the PAC and expenditures. Strong and Free PAC has now filed a report but we are still in the dark about the source of its money. It listed the source of its contributions of $39,000 as coming from a non-profit corporation of the same name.

Mark Winslow is not satisfied. He dismissed the $5,000 fine as too small to have an impact. “Any group that goes to such lengths to conceal its donors, activities and intent will consider a $5,000 fine to be nothing more than the cost of doing business,” he is quoted in The Tennessean as saying. “Average Tennesseans who wish to be involved in the political process and can’t financially compete with secretive PACs dumping thousands of dollars to buy influence are the losers in this ruling. The commission sided with wealthy interests over truthful politics.”

I agree with Winslow that PACs should not be allowed to play slight of hand to hide the source of campaign contributions. Maybe laws need to be changed so PACs really have to disclose the source of their funding. If one can create a non-profit entity to give money to the PAC, then the disclosure of the source of the PAC's contributions is meaningless. I don't know that $5,000 is an insignificant fine, however, for a first offense by a PAC. The amount of the fine may not be the problems but campaign finance laws that allow the source of contributions to remain hidden.

I would think that with someone with time to do it one could have dug deeper and  told us who the principals are of  Strong and Free, the non-profit corporation.  A good newspaper would have dug deeper and told us more about Strong and Free. Unfortunately, The Tennessean does very little in-depth reporting or we would know more. With limited time, I can't do it myself but if anyone can find out who is on the board of Strong and Free, the non-profit and send me the documentation, I will report on it and list the names.

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