… Come From a Supposed Conservative?
In case you missed it, there are three Republicans now running in what will almost certainly be state Senate District 18 down in Las Vegas. Michele Fiore is one, and the other two are sitting State Assemblymen, Scott Hammond and Richard McArthur. I’ve observed both of the Assemblymen in action pretty closely, and while they have different tacks on their respective political philosophies, I think both of them are thoughtful, solid Conservatives. I’ve never met Fiore, but there is no particular reason to doubt she’d be a good Senator, too. Certainly any of the three of them would be preferable to a Democrat in that seat, particularly where the majority hangs in the balance.
Enter Las Vegas political consultant/blogger Chuck Muth. He wrote an incredibly troubling (and ironically named) blog post on this race, which is a completely unnecessary and savage (and in my view, below-the-belt) attack job on Scott Hammond, coupled with an uncritical lionization of Richard McArthur.
What’s especially bad is that Muth seems to actually be working for McArthur, and didn’t mention it. And not only did Muth not disclose this connection in his “analysis,” but if it’s true, it seems clear Chuck actively tried to hide it. Oh, and it also looks very much like Muth could have been violating federal law while he did it.
I first noticed that Muth was likely working with McArthur when McArthur’s announcement E-mail came my way. At the bottom of the E-mail (which touts McArthur’s tax pledge signing and Citizen Outreach Legislative Scorecard ratings – both Chuck Muth trademarks – as subtly as a Liberace tuxedo), it indicates that “Citizen Outreach,” Chuck’s 501(c)(4) group, was the originator of the E-mail.
That’s a huge no-no, because a 501(c)(3) or (4) organization has very strict rules about not working directly with candidates or their campaigns. This was the attempt to limit “soft money” in politics, where candidates used to be able to strategically use and coordinate with groups that looked independent, but were really just hatchet men the campaign didn’t want to officially associate with.
At the time, I hadn’t heard that any other Republican was in the race. But when I saw Muth’s blog post, I went back and looked at that E-mail, and another McArthur E-mail that was sent later.
Someone clearly mentioned the “D’oh!” footer, because in the second E-mail, the sender is “Richard McArthur for Senate 18”.
Except they didn’t actually fix anything, because if you click on the “Unsubscribe” link, you get…
D’oh! And really, it’s super-duper “Oh crap the IRS could SOOOOO fine the hell out of me and put me out of business” d’oh. Because that’s not regular Citizen Outreach, that’s the Citizen Outreach Foundation, Inc., which is a 501(c)(3) – emphasis on the (3).
COF, Inc. is the kind of organization that federal law specifically prohibits from working directly with a campaign, because donations to those organizations are tax deductible. Anyone I’ve ever met who has ever run for office or managed a campaign is not only well aware of this, but is justifiably paranoid about accidental cross-polinization. Even if it’s not a violation of the law, the mere perception of impropriety is enough to spark an investigation or complaint and embarrass the candidate.
So – was this just some intern using the wrong “send from” button? Well, there’s a few other pieces to the story that suggests there’s more to it than that.
On Chuck’s Twitter feed a few hours before the announcement E-mail was sent, he said:
And then, a little later:
I don’t see any other rational conclusion except that it’s meant to look deliberately like “Journalist” Muth had gotten a scoop, when in fact it was part of a coordinated effort by Campaign Consultant Muth. There’s nothing wrong with a well-coordinated rollout, of course, but why the seemingly deliberate deception? Why not just come out and admit that you know McArthur is running because you’re actively supporting his campaign via your consulting company?
“Full Disclosure” isn’t just important so people can see and adjust for potential biases. We all have our biases, after all, both philosophical and financial. When you lay your cards on the table at the outset, you build more, not less, credibility. Assuming Muth failed to do that (or even if he was just being careless), he hurt both himself and his client candidate. Because his client is a good man and a good conservative, the later is the far worse sin.
One could argue that the confusing labyrinth of campaign finance laws is overly complex and questionably Constitutional. But when Democrat Rory Reid set up 91 shell PACs during his campaign for Governor in 2010 in order to take $750,000 more dollars than he otherwise legally could have received, which arguably WAS legal (though certainly unethical), Muth called the younger Reid a “lying sh*t-weasel”.
Classy AND consistent! And it also further suggests that there was no “ignorantia juris” here, even if that were an excuse.
Chuck Muth has several distinct legal entities – Citizen Outreach, Citizen Outreach Foundation, Citizen Outreach PAC, Desert Fox Consulting… Some of them can be used to help candidates directly, others can’t. That means any intended deception was as unnecessary as it was clumsy.
Muth almost certainly would have a financial stake in the outcome of this race, too – consultants have to eat, too, and don’t usually work for free. Obviously, he would be in a position to get paid more if McArthur makes it past the primary and has a long general election battle to wage. But even if Muth is working pro bono, his personal involvement in McArthur’s campaign would certainly cloud the credibility of the criticism of Hammond. And if Muth had already engaged in deception surrounding his involvement with McArthur, such a fact would make any argument coming from Chuck as reliable as a New York Times piece on tea party “racism” – completely irrespective of Hammond’s actual pros and cons and a candidate.
It makes you wonder what else Muth isn’t being fully open about when it comes to his political analysis. He’s certainly been caught being less than… forthcoming before. Even if there is no ill intent here and it’s just some gross incompetence, by calling himself a “Conservative” and supporting candidates labeled “conservative,” Muth tars our whole movement. And that makes the cause of Liberty more difficult to defend.
As I’ve argued before on this blog, the Conservative Movement is dead in the water as long as Democrats are winning elections. When self-proclaimed “activists” blur or hide the lines between advocacy of ideas and sneaky intra-party political hit jobs in such blatant ways, it will be harder for Republicans to win elections in Nevada. Given the closeness of the voter registration demographics in SD18, it’s especially true there.
I wouldn’t have any problem with a Senator McArthur, but a Senator Hammond will also be good, and I think the rest of the Senate GOP Caucus had good reasons to endorse him. I don’t have any problem with healthy primaries – indeed I embrace them – but at the end of the day, one of these guys will be our candidate. Hopefully now if Hammond wins, conservatives who might have been induced to stay home by Muth’s post will remember those “arguments” for exactly what they were – almost certainly deceptive and questionably legal political attacks.
I really wasn’t going to run with this post when I first thought about it last week – I don’t think internecine warfare is particularly helpful to the GOP or to the cause of liberty. But there has been at least one incident since this where a solid and promising Conservative legislator has been slagged inexplicably by Muth – and that makes this a pattern impossible to ignore. Sometimes someone in your own camp makes it clear that he has no interest in any cause other than himself, even at the expense of liberty. People like that, especially when they claim to be on our side, need to be disinfected like an #Occupier in a public park. And light is the best disinfectant.
There is still time for any of these candidates to change their minds and run for other things as the political landscape becomes more and more clear. No one can even file for office until March.
But most importantly, there is still time for Richard McArthur – a solid guy and a solid Conservative who I’m certain must be unaware of the damage being done to him (I don’t see McArthur hanging out on the blogs or relentlessly checking his Twitter feed) – to cut ties to Muth and his shady campaign practices before it becomes a needless scandal or bloody primary which will only benefit liberal Democrats.
If that’s not enough to persuade Mr. McArthur (or any other Republican thinking of asking for Muth’s “help”), perhaps self-preservation is. The Assemblyman should ask Senator Elizabeth Halseth just what happens when you agree to take that scorpion across the river on your back.