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Birther smear dodges FEC complaint

The Federal Elections Commission has rejected a complaint against Joel Gilbert, responsible for the smear film, “Dreams from My Real Father,” that was mailed to millions of potential voters in swing states during the 2012 election cycle. The film alleges that the President’s father is Frank Marshall Davis. The complaint is based on the fact that the persons who funded the effort have not been disclosed. The complaint is MUR 6779.

At this point, I am leaving this article in skeletal form, pending further information, and not knowing whether it will be appealed or not.

My general view is that when it comes to political money, more disclosure is better than less.

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9 Responses to Birther smear dodges FEC complaint

  1. avatar
    Terry K. April 4, 2016 at 9:04 pm #

    Interesting that Gilbert’s original counsel on the matter, and the one who signed Gilbert’s response, was Cleta Mitchell, a conservative activist and election law specialist whom, I’m guessing, does not come cheap;

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleta_Mitchell

    Her replacement, Eric Lycan, signer of the second response from the Gilbert camp, is also big in conservative politics, having served as counsel for Mitch McConnell’s last re-election campaign and is currently treasurer for a pro-Cruz super PAC:

    http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2016/01/26/senate-majority-leader-mitch-mcconnell-attorney-heads-pro-cruz-anti-trump-super-pac/

    Funny how Gilbert was able to come with some high-powered right-wing legal help to back him up despite his insistence that his intent in making his anti-Obama “documentary” was not a partisan one.

  2. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy April 4, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

    Not to mention replacement counsel Bradley A. Smith, former Chairman of the FEC.

    I can’t help but think that somebody doesn’t want their name made public.

    Terry K.: Interesting that Gilbert’s original counsel on the matter

  3. avatar
    The Magic M (not logged in) April 5, 2016 at 5:50 am #

    I’d like to see a poll as to if and how this influenced voters.
    My guess is for every person who got swayed by the film to not vote for Obama (which would mean to not vote at all, not to switch his vote to Romney), there’s 2-3 who would’ve not voted and got motivated to vote for him.

    Smear campaigns seem to be common, but I haven’t seen many reports on their impact (or adverse impact), except for the big one (swiftboating of John Kerry).

  4. avatar
    Notorial Dissent April 5, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    I’m still not sure how this would come under the purview of the FEC, I see some of it, but even though i twas politically motivated and “probably” funded, I think it was a stretch, although I see where Loren was going with this.

  5. avatar
    Loren April 5, 2016 at 10:38 pm #

    Notorial Dissent:
    I’m still not sure how this would come under the purview of the FEC, I see some of it, but even though i twas politically motivated and “probably” funded, I think it was a stretch, although I see where Loren was going with this.

    If you follow the links through to the documents, you can read my complaint. Basically, I contended that Gilbert’s mass-mailing 4 million DVDs, at a cost easily upwards of $1 million, constituted an independent expenditure which, under FEC rules, must be reported to the FEC and any founders disclosed. Gilbert’s defense was that he was a press entity entitled to an exemption, that the money he received was from “investors” in the film, and that the mailing of the 4 million DVDs was a marketing effort.

  6. avatar
    Arthur B. April 5, 2016 at 11:04 pm #

    Loren, are you planning to pursue the matter further?

  7. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy April 6, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    It’s hard to explain how a credible marketing effort involves giving something away for free and not making any noticeable effort to sell it. The film briefly (?) made it to Netflix, but is no longer there. I suppose that should you take this to district court, you could subpoena Netflix to find out if they paid any royalties to show the film.

    I contend that by publishing sexually provocative photos of someone that Gilbert contends was under age 18 is marketing child pornography.

    Loren: Basically, I contended that Gilbert’s mass-mailing 4 million DVDs, at a cost easily upwards of $1 million, constituted an independent expenditure which, under FEC rules, must be reported to the FEC and any founders disclosed.

  8. avatar
    Notorial Dissent April 6, 2016 at 8:16 am #

    Loren, I couldn’t get to the actual complaint, all it did was take me around in circles, so I don’t know what you actually filed. I think I know where you are coming from and what your point is, and FWIW, I agree with you that this was a political hit piece and what you are saying is valid, and that Gilbert was essentially paid to do this. The problem I see is that Gilbert et al AREN’T a political entity as defined by FED and so are outside their jurisdiction. You need to know who the “investors” were and I don’t see how you are going to get there.

    I also agree with Doc here about the child pornography angle.

  9. avatar
    Loren April 6, 2016 at 11:51 am #

    Notorial Dissent:
    Loren, I couldn’t get to the actual complaint, all it did was take me around in circles, so I don’t know what you actually filed.

    Yeah, the FEC site doesn’t allow for linking to the documents, or even to the individual case listing. Go to http://eqs.fec.gov/eqs/searcheqs and search for Case Number 6779 under Matters Under Review.

    The problem I see is that Gilbert et al AREN’T a political entity as defined by FED and so are outside their jurisdiction.

    Doesn’t matter that he’s not a political entity. If you, as a person or corporation, make independent expenditures of over a certain amount in support of or opposition to a political candidate, you’re required to report that expenditure to the FEC.

    Indeed, if Gilbert had run any television or radio ads, even as a press entity, he would’ve been required to file disclosures under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. But those particular rules only apply to TV and radio.