Contrary to some media reports, 3rd District hopeful and dairy farm magnate Charles "Scottie" Mayfield isn't being attacked by "Citizens for a Working America PAC," a pro-Romney super PAC based in Lancaster, Virginia.
No, Mayfield's hammering at the hands of $165,000 worth of independent attack ads comes from another, similarly named group called Citizens for a Working America Inc., which is also a pro-Romney PAC but is based in Beaufort, S.C. Subtle detail, big distinction. Both the Chattanooga Times Free Press (which has scrubbed the story from its site) and Knoxville-area ABC affiliate WATE incorrectly identified the PAC in question, attributing the outside spending against Mayfield to the Virginia-based group instead of the South Carolinian one.
Most Americans don't possess the finely tuned ear of, say, a Vanilla Ice to discern the subtle differences between the covert organizations raising gobs of money for and against candidates under the cloak of Supreme Court-sanctioned anonymity — which makes identifying them as accurately as possible all the more valuable in an era of darkness and nondisclosure.
Citizens for a Working America PAC has spent nearly $683,000 — in large part to help catapult Mitt Romney into the White House, as well as meddle in a handful of house races in Kentucky and Indiana. According to iWatchNews, a blog run by the Center for Public Integrity (emphasis added):
The super PAC started in Virginia on Sept. 2, 2010, and it made a large ad buy against then-House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., in 2010.
It met with some controversy when it accepted a single $255,000 donation in 2010 from a Virginia consulting group called “New Models.” Questions were raised as to whether the group was being used as a pass-through for unnamed donors.
For the 2012 GOP presidential election, the group said it would support Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who has dropped out. The PAC has made a single expenditure of $455,000 in support of Romney for television advertising in South Carolina, Federal Election Commission records show.
The PAC is not to be confused — or perhaps should be confused — with a group that has nearly the same name, Citizens for a Working America Inc., which is apparently a nonprofit registered under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code that made a $475,000 Christmas Eve ad buy supporting Romney.
And, of course, Citizens for a Working America Inc. also forked over the aforementioned $165,000 on July 25, 2012, to attack Mayfield. Details for this PAC are scarce. Even the FEC filings don't list a treasurer's name. iWatchNews tracked the group to JSN Associates, a political consulting firm in Dayton, Ohio, which (surprise surprise) wouldn't disclose who the group's donors are.
Now, one could chastise the Tennessee reporters for lacking due diligence to make this distinction, but then we'd be missing a larger point here. Sure, it's a fuck-up, and fuck-ups happen. Hell, even if we weren't living in an era witnessing the fallout of print media consolidation, "do less with more" mandates and an acute case of Gannettitis, this kind of mixup could just as easily happen as a result of Citizens United: Hypothetically speaking, even with well-stocked reporting pools, a renaissance of the beat writer and a lifting of the general malaise that has fallen on newspapers, the current financial disclosure landscape carved out by the Supreme Court allows not only the proliferation of such groups, but it allows those groups to proliferate to such a degree that even their intentionally innocuous-sounding names start bleeding into one another.
The net effect? Further obfuscation of an already murky money trail, made all the more difficult to navigate because all the streets are cul-de-sacs and many of the signs are spelled the same. The money goes where it needs to go, under cover of night, with reporters chasing down errors — and not the donors buying our elections.