Image of wagons being circled from the Old West.

The piece I wrote on Jane Hamsher's PAC expenditures has drawn responses from both Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald, the cofounder of the Accountability Now PAC. They claim that I am engaged in "an attack meant to shut down fundraising" and "standard political cult behavior of trying to smear those who oppose the Leader."

Hamsher submitted her comment to Mediaite:

Glenn runs Accountability Now, which is a non-partisan organization, and I run FDL PAC, which is a progressive organization. FDL PAC went well beyond the level of disclosure required by the FEC, and I'm extraordinarily proud of what we managed to accomplish on a shoestring budget. There wasn't one meal, entertainment expense or travel receipt in the report. Not that there would have been anything wrong if there had been, but between FEC compliance and program costs, there wasn't a penny to spare. This was an attack meant to shut down fundraising, no different from the attacks on ACORN or the labor unions by the right. There are many ways to engage in a political disagreement that don't involve trying to destroy an organization's ability to pay its staff a living wage for the work that they do. This wasn't one of them.

Greenwald made his in response to a blogger on Balloon Juice who called Accountability Now a failure. Some of his points address that blogger, who retracted his post, but the rest appears to be a response to my story. Greenwald claims that he's being attacked for being a tough critic of Obama:

This smear comes from one place: blogs that are devoted to revering Barack Obama and despising anyone who speaks ill of him. Just like Bush followers invariably tried to slime the personal credibility of anyone who dissented from their movement (Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, Paul O'Neill, David Frum), the real purpose of this is to try to smear Jane Hamsher (and, much more distantly, me) for the Crime of Speaking Ill of the Leader. If enough money signs are thrown around enough times with her name, Obama cultists who view her as a Traitor will declare that some great impropriety has taken place. But the smear lacks even a single concrete accusation, let alone a true one.

That's why it's all coming from Obama-revering circles. It has nothing to do with the issues raised and everything to do with the standard political cult behavior of trying to smear those who oppose the Leader.

In this case, it backfired. What you said was blatantly false. You were so reckless in what you said that you had to retract it. Every actual fact that you cited was disclosed long ago by Accountability Now as clearly and publicly as possible.

Being able to accomplish what we accomplished with AN, with a tiny budget of small donors who were never asked again to donate, is one of the things about which I'm most proud in terms of the work I've done in the past 18 months. What is missing more than anything from Washington is a credible infrastructure to recruit and support primary challengers against unaccountable incumbents, and from scratch, we created that. Every last aspect of the group's activities and finances were publicly disclosed way beyond what the law requires. The ones who have been exposed and whose credibility has been damaged are people (like you) willing to spout false and baseless accusations without bothering to do the slightest work to first find out if what you're saying is true, all because the people you’re smearing don't sufficiently revere your Leader.

Neither Hamsher nor Greenwald point out any specific errors of fact in the story, which reported what the FEC filings reveal about their PAC expenditures.

Greenwald's wrong when he states that I used figures from the Accountability Now year-end expense report in my story. I added up the numbers myself from the FEC filings because there were some minor differences.

Contrary to his claim that it would be "impossible to have greater disclosure of expenses than what we provided," his PAC could have answered questions about its FEC filings sent to its treasurer. They had four days. I even told Hamsher in advance that the story was being published Monday and told her everything it would cover. That's how she was able to prepare an expense report that came out around the same time I published my story.

I'm catching hell in a 1,100-comment Daily Kos post about Greenwald's response. One commenter asked, "who are you that a blogger should give you an interview?"

I find that question ironic, given the fact that we're talking about grass-roots PACs like the one Firedoglake operates. Am I important enough to deserve an answer to my questions? It's not for me to decide. My mother says I'm plenty important.

On a site like Daily Kos, any user can publish a diary that gets a great deal of attention. My story has drawn 1,400 comments and was promoted by users to the front page, despite the fact that site publisher Markos Moulitsas disliked it. So if anybody is declining to answer questions on the grounds that the blogger isn't important enough for their time, that seems like a bad policy to me.

The suggestion that I'm doing all of this because I love Obama and I hate his critics is completely false.

I love Joe Biden.

I gave him $250 minutes before he dropped out of the presidential race. He sent me a nice letter in response.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

Comments

Contrary to [Greenwald's] claim that it would be "impossible to have greater disclosure of expenses than what we provided," his PAC could have answered questions about its FEC filings sent to its treasurer. They had four days.

This is an absolute lie. You never asked a single question about Accountability Now before writing what you wrote. You sent one email to DeVeria Flowers which asked only about FDL Action PAC -- which I have nothing to do with -- and nothing about Accountability Now. Here's the first paragraph of what you wrote:

I'm the publisher of the liberal blog Drudge Retort. I am doing some research into blog-affiliated PACs and how they operate, and I had some questions after looking at the FEC filings for FDL Action PAC. I was hoping that you or somebody else affiliated with the PAC could answer them.

You then listed your questions. Contrary to what you've been claiming, none was about Accountability Now. They were all about FDL Action PAC. The subject line of your email was "Questions About FDL Action PAC."

Here's your email in its entirety, so everyone can see what a rank liar you are:

______________

From: "Rogers Cadenhead"

Sent: Thu, 25 Mar 2010 15:38:25 Pacific Daylight Time

To: xxxxxxx

Subject: Questions About FDL Action PAC

Hi, Deveria,

I'm the publisher of the liberal blog Drudge Retort. I am doing some research into blog-affiliated PACs and how they operate, and I had some questions after looking at the FEC filings for FDL Action PAC. I was hoping that you or somebody else affiliated with the PAC could
answer them.

1. What list did the PAC purchase from Fire Dog Lake Company for $14,111.66?

2. Who is Steve Kramer, a person who was paid for phone contact consulting, and what did he do for the PAC?

3. What is the nature of the phone contact consulting that Target Marketing USA did for the PAC -- polling, robocall ads or something else?

4. What (or who) is KMP Research and why does it share the same Virginia address as Fire Dog Lake Company?

5. Out of the $9,920 paid to CommonSense Media for online advertising, how much of that money was spent on online ads and how much was kept by the company? I ask because CommonSense Media is run by the same people as Fire Dog Lake Company.

6. Can you tell me more about the shared general administrative expenses of $16,411 paid to Fire Dog Lake Company?

7. The HTML code for the ads on fdlaction.firedoglake.com appears to be the same as on firedoglake.com. Is the revenue earned by ads on fdlaction.firedoglake.com going to Fire Dog Lake Company or FDL Action PAC?

8. By my estimate, out of the $235,000 raised by FDL Action PAC in 2009, around $54,000 was spent on promotion of PAC causes ($34,852.97 to Abar Hutton Media for issue ads, $9,920 to CommonSense Media for online ads, $992 to McMahon Squire and Associates), around $44,000 was spent on Fire Dog Lake and affiliated entities (including CommonSense), and the rest was overhead. What would you say to the
8,000-plus donors to the PAC if they wanted to know whether they were getting enough bang for their buck?

I am thinking about blogging about this, so any answer you provide will be on the record unless we arrange otherwise. Thanks for your time.

_________________

Claiming that you first asked questions about Accountability Now before smearing it, and that it refused to answer your questions, is -- as you well know -- a total lie, which only compounds the defamatory and reckless smear you've been spewing.


 

Jeez Greenwald's a douche. Can't these ninnies muster an argument without paranoid fantasies and logical fallacies?


 

Claiming that you first asked questions about Accountability Now before smearing it, and that it refused to answer your questions, is -- as you well know -- a total lie, which only compounds the defamatory and reckless smear you've been spewing.

I sent my first questions to FDL Action PAC treasurer DeVeria Flowers and Accountability Now PAC treasurer Jane Hamsher on Thursday. I did not get a response, so I sent a second email to each on Friday.

I again did not get a response, so I sent another email on Sunday morning stating that I was planning to publish Monday. In those emails, I asked Flowers and Hamsher, "I'm also not clear on why Accountability Now paid $4,000 rent to Fire Dog Lake in California. The company has operated out of UPS Stores in Los Angeles and Falls Church. The 2009 Year-End Report on Accountability Now states that the PAC kept expenses low by avoiding 'office rentals.'"

I heard back from Hamsher and we exchanged several emails, but she did not answer a single question I had asked about expenditures for either PAC, nor did she tell me I should contact someone else.

If Hamsher gives me permission, I will release the full transcript of our email exchange publicly.


 

Rogers, Jane Hamsher has lived through three cancer surgeries. She should be taking out a helluva lot more than she is.

Jane has held accountable the deepest pockets in the U.S. Based on your choice of targets, I can only assume you are receiving compensation from them.

Please make a public gift of $1,000 to FDL. You claim to be a liberal. That would be a step towards restitution for the venal character assassination in which you have engaged.


 

You rock, Mr. Cadenhead. You have my eternal gratitude for outing Hamsher and Greenwald as the hypocritical, sanctimonious phonies they are. Don't let their swarm of flesh-eating zombies stop you.

Accountability for Thee But Not For Me. Dishers-out who can't take it extraordinaire.


 

From someone who know you as a journalist before you became a "semi-deranged former journalist," I have to say this brouhaha is kind of exciting.

I'm glad you're still doing the investigations that mean something to you and writing about the things that you feel the public should know.

This is almost as exciting as you guessing the new pope's name correctly and squatting on the URL. I called my mom when that happened, and she remembered you and laughed.

But this isn't quite as fun as when you did the "Match the Eyebrows to the Administrator" April Fool's feature for The North Texas Daily. Ok, so that didn't create as much controversy, but still. It was damn funny.

Keep fighting the good fight. Mom says hi.


 

Glenn:

Why would you reproduce an email to the treasurer of FDL Action as evidence that the author never contacted Accountability Now?


 

when logic shows
that I'm at fault
I'll point out
you're in a cult
Each word I write is great
each run-on line
and quick UPDATE!
honest disagreement -- NOT!
that's obvious
Obamabot!


 

To suggest the public, and more importantly contributors, overlook a political action committee's financial decisions because of political ideology, a principal figure's medical history or the PAC's willingness to scream louder is ridiculous.

Regardless of their cause, PACs are largely in need of a dose of transparency. FDL/Accountability Now are no different. PACs wield great power over our political and legal process. If Ms. Hamsher or Mr. Greenwald were truly concerned with avoiding a "smear" they'd simply answer the questions as posed by Rogers. This could all be resolved with a dose of frank, honest answers.

It's not too tough folks.


 

Dear John Casper:

Ms. Hamsher doesn't play the cancer sympathy card and gives the impression she's willing to go toe to toe with those who challenge her and those she challenges. I don't think requesting transparency is somehow a challenge to her credibility as a cancer survivor. It's simply demanding the same transparency she and Greenwald expect from everyone else. That's all.

BTW, I've been looking at these FEC disclosures too, and arrived at the very same list of questions as Cadenhead. I was still mulling where to go with them when he posted his post. These aren't unreasonable questions; they're quite similar to what they would expect of others.

Asking questions isn't a smear. Posting facts isn't a smear. It's a byproduct of being 'grassroots'. People actually expect accountability and transparency.


 

Whether Greenwald or Hamsher found any errors of fact with your piece, and I believe Greenwald did, others including myself found problems with information you presented as fact. You have yet to adequately substantiate how you determined:

FEC reports show that Hamsher's PACs are a significant source of income for Firedoglake

or

CommonSense Media is a liberal ad network run by Hamsher and KMP Research is a business entity that Hamsher uses in both PACs to pay herself

or

But because Firedoglake is a blog that's dependent on financial support from PACs

Those are very strong statements and not presented as your opinion. They should not be presented as fact unless you are able to document the validity of the statement with properly sourced material.

Again, how did you determine the revenue from the PACs are a significant source of income for Firedoglake?

How do you know Hamsher receives any compensation or income from CommonSense Media or KMP Research? If she does, how do you know if any of what she receives or draws comes from funds paid by either of the PACs?

How do you know the blog Firedoglake is dependent on financial support from either of the PACs?

And what about the bloggers who appear to have been paid by Firedoglake, especially since the fundraising drive to pay them was done in June 2009 before the PAC was formed in September 2009? Neither Hamsher or either of the bloggers ever stated they were being paid by the PAC. Every reference to their payment was to Firedoglake.

Why would the filings for FDL Action PAC contain any information about donations for or payment to those two bloggers? Why do you suggest it raises any questions at all? Firedoglake is a corporate entity entirely separate from FDL Action PAC but you seem to have problems distinguishing between the two, even in your questions emailed to Ms. Flowers.


 

In the FDL Action PAC expense report, Hamsher confirmed my reporting that KMP Research is her consulting firm. The fact that CommonSense Media is a commercial enterprise led by Hamsher is stated on its home page.

The terms "significant source of income" and "dependent on financial support from PACs" are my assessment. I don't think you can make much of an argument that $44,000 is not an important revenue stream for a blog the size of Firedoglake. In her response on Mediaite, Hamsher claims that challenges to the site's PAC could destroy Firedoglake's ability to "pay its staff a living wage." So clearly she regards the funding as significant.

Your question about Gittelson and Bell is answered by the story. When a blog that runs a PAC collects donations to pay people to engage in political activity, the place that activity would be expected to show up is in the PAC's FEC reports. Because it didn't, I asked Flowers and Hamsher about it.


 

Good catch: given the smallish sums involved I was skeptical he'd do anything dodgy; but the reaction is curious, no?

I don't know about Ms Hamsher (other than to say sorry she'll ill, but how can her misfortune be anyone's defense?). Greenwald is another story, and double shame on him for hiding behind someone's illness. This guy made some kind of cosmic sense when Cheney and Rumsfeld were around, but for some time now he's tarnished every cause unfortunate enough to appeal to him. It's hard to make the case the right has gone off the rails when all they have to do is point Glenn-ward.

Can you imagine Greenwald ever convincing anyone of anything? This pony's one trick -- turning passive-aggressiveness into a mode of political intervention - must have appealed to someone; after all, the last great practitioner of the art had a good run (until Watergate brought him down). But just how many more variations on "How dare you!" does he expect us to endure?

There are few pleasure in life to compare with watching a good reporter stand up to bullying, even the emotional kind, bravo. If only Greenwald weren't so dull this might be fun to watch, I'd get a seat in the bleachers. But we know where this goes: he'll huff and he'll puff, and he'll moan and he'll whine; and that's all there is to him.


 

I enjoy the two-track strategy employed by the cockroaches you exposed:
1. You're a nobody. Who the hell are you to question us? We don't owe you a response.

2. Here are multiple responses after-the-fact.

Cadenhead, I guess you're a nobody who doesn't deserve a response from these hypocrites... until you expose them as liars.

And then you get bullsh*t instead of actual answers.

And then they claim you're still a nobody.

You're a nobody who seems to make them very VERY VERY ANGRY.

Funny - that's now how one behaves when they consider someone to be unimportant...


 

This is the first time I've heard about this story, but the BlueAmericaPAC (FDL+CrooksAndLiars+Digby) works/worked with a group linked to a foreign government.

And, what they're doing with that group helps that foreign government profit from illegal activity inside the U.S.:

24ahead.com

Maybe RCade could ask them about that.


 

Once again, you fail to answer my questions.

In the FDL Action PAC expense report, Hamsher confirmed my reporting that KMP Research is her consulting firm. The fact that CommonSense Media is a commercial enterprise led by Hamsher is stated on its home page.

I did not ask about or dispute Hamsher's interest in either organization. The issue is with your statement that Hamsher is paying herself from both PACs via these entities. There is no question, per the FEC filings, that the PACs made payments to CommonSense Media and KMP Research. You have provided nothing to verify Hamsher draws a salary or takes any share of the profits of either business. Maybe you honestly do not understand that having an interest in a business does not mean you are paid by the business or that you take any share of the profits, if the business is even profitable. My family owned half a small restaurant for years. The business paid employees but we were not employees. The business more or less made enough to break even and continue operating. I think it was five or six years before we took any money as owners. If we had drawn anything out prior to that point it would have been drawn against the initial capital we put into the business. Did you even consider the possibility Hamsher might not receive any money from those businesses?

The terms "significant source of income" and "dependent on financial support from PACs" are my assessment. I don't think you can make much of an argument that $44,000 is not an important revenue stream for a blog the size of Firedoglake. In her response on Mediaite, Hamsher claims that challenges to the site's PAC could destroy Firedoglake's ability to "pay its staff a living wage." So clearly she regards the funding as significant.

You made an assessment based on the size of a blog? I can make an argument that without additional information it is impossible to know how important $44,000 is to the blog Firedoglake. How can you make any determination without knowing the blog's expenses or the other revenue received? It simply is not possible, for you or anyone else. Also, the $16,411 for shared expenses is not revenue but reimbursement of costs to the blog. The email rental list is revenue but a one time shot that the blog will not be able to count on in the future. And read Hamsher's response Mediate again. No where does Hamsher discuss the blog. She only refers to the FDL PAC and how the PACs ability to pay staff (even if it is through shared overhead with the blog) is at risk.

Your question about Gittelson and Bell is answered by the story. When a blog that runs a PAC collects donations to pay people to engage in political activity, the place that activity would be expected to show up is in the PAC's FEC reports. Because it didn't, I asked Flowers and Hamsher about it.

My question was not answered by the story or by the response above from you. The blog Firedoglake has taken contributions for years. Gittleson and Bell were engaged by the blog prior to the formation of the PAC. The drive for donations to pay Gittleson and Bell was initiated prior to the formation of the PAC. Every party involved, Hamsher, Gittleson and Bell, indicated they were being paid by Firedoglake. The donation link for supporting Gittleson and Bell on the Firedoglake page your story linked to goes directly to a Firedoglake donation page. So why would you even suggest there was anything improper about the exclusion of their activities in the PAC's filings and that exclusion raised even more questions? Do you not see the disconnect there?



 

"The blog Firedoglake has taken contributions for years."

Indeed. And those have never been accounted for at all.


 

Standingup: If you have inside knowledge of how Firedoglake operates and can show where my assessment is incorrect, lay the facts out and let us know what your involvement is. Otherwise, it is a waste of time to pepper me with questions about subjects I did not cover.

My reporting contains the information I was able to gather about the PACs. Because Hamsher did not talk to me, I limited my inquiry to the information in the FEC filings and did not cover what the recipients of funds used the money on.

The opinions I expressed in the article were confined to the hardly controversial notions that transparency is important, web sites paid with PAC funds need the money and constant fundraising may affect a blogger's judgment.

I think the process I went through to write the story is a good one that ought to be attempted on other PACs.

I looked at the FEC filings, prepared a list of questions on matters I didn't understand and submitted them to the PAC treasurer. I think that a treasurer has an obligation to either answer such questions or refer them to someone else in the organization who can.

If I'm ignorant of some things because the treasurer chose not to enlighten me, whose fault is that?


 

I don't have inside information, have any relationship with Hamsher, have not donated to either of the PACs or her website and frankly disagree with Hamsher on a variety of political issues. But that is not really the point.

All of my questions covered statements you made in your story. I have not delved into your motivations, your background or anything else. Everything I have brought up has been strictly confined to what you wrote. Can you tell me what questions I asked that were not about subjects you did not cover?

As for your claim to have limited you inquiry to "information in the FEC filings and did not cover what the recipients of funds used the money on." Not true as you clearly addressed that when you wrote, "CommonSense Media is a liberal ad network run by Hamsher and KMP Research is a business entity that Hamsher uses in both PACs to pay herself."

Here is a prime example of the problem with your reporting:

The opinions I expressed in the article were confined to the hardly controversial notions that transparency is important, web sites paid with PAC funds need the money and constant fundraising may affect a blogger's judgment.

Again you have made an assessment or come to a conclusion that is not possible for you to make with the information you have from the FEC filings. Is there other information you have about Firedoglake's finances you are not sharing that backs your statements that Firedoglake relies on money from the PACs to operate? I do not know what your background in business or accounting includes. I have a business degree and work with a forensic accountant who is also a Certified Fraud Examniner. I am pretty confident that you are not able to make several of the statements you made with any level of certainty that they are accurate unless you have more information than you have provided.

I agree transparency is important. I fully support reporting that examines and questions what is reported by PACs. I think it is unfortunate Hamsher and Flowers did not respond to your questions and that certainly is not your fault. But their lack of response is not an acceptable excuse for drawing conclusions that can't be made without the benefit of more information.

You could have easily pointed to the areas you saw where there were questions, more disclosure needed and that those questions were not answered by Hamsher or Flowers. Instead, you went beyond reporting what you knew and drew conclusions that you or no one else can verify are accurate. Your assumptions may be correct or they may be wrong. The point being there is no way of knowing and your choice to include your own assumptions is your fault. I can't imagine any copy editor would have let your story go to print with several of the statements you made.

I hope you will keep this in mind with any future reporting you do on PACs. I also think it might be useful to compare some of the PACs and how they are spending funds received. A comparison could provide another metric for donors to see how much bang they are getting for their buck.


 

I keep coming back to the headline, "Who the Hell Is Rogers Cadenhead?"

My answer? "What the Hell Does It Matter?"

I suppose I, too, qualify for the moniker "semi-deranged former journalist," but if I wanted to look into the financial arrangements of an entity that was required to keep transparent records about its transactions, I could. And if I discovered trends I found disturbing, I, too, could share them with people in my network.

And you could. And we should. But perhaps the reaction of some to Rogers' interpretations of his findings will discourage some of us from doing the same. I find that disappointing.


 

Beth: I really doubt many people will be discouraged by Rogers experience. The are many people engaging in watchdog activities on the internet.

If they report what they discover objectively and accurately, they have a very different experience from what Roger has had in response to his work on Hamsher's PACs. Roger could have done the same and left his interpretation out of the story.


 

Wow, a whole lot of silly semantics picking. If Hamsher owns or otherwise has a financial interest in an entity that is paid by the PAC, then it doesn't matter whether she pays herself personally from the entity or not - everyone knows what is meant.

If money from source X gets paid to entity Y and I am the owner of Y, it's clear that I get money from X - whether or not Y produces a profit.


 

Rootless: I don't know "what is meant." Care to elaborate on that further?

And no, if the only information we have is that entity X paid money to entity Y and you are the owner of entity Y, all that can be said is that an entity you own received money from entity X.

Also, are you familiar with the term "semantic attack?" It might come closer to describing Rogers story than anything of the other silliness that has been tossed around.


 

I was a fully deranged journalist - according to Rogers - who worked with Rogers almost 25 years ago. It never really mattered whether the people we reported on agreed with us politically or not. Stories being driven by the lack of transparency isn't new, but that doesn't mean it's not legitimate.

I think what's funny here is Rogers did something most reporters would never do. He gave the folks being reported on a heads up and four days to respond. Whether you like his story or not, that's not how someone out to do a hatchet job operates. That also isn't how someone being paid by some other special interest operates. I should no I am in PR. But lastly and most importantly - yes, Rogers, I buried the lead, I find it funny and ironic that Rogers is being pressed to answer questions, when if Hamsher had responded to the questions to begin with, this might have been avoided. Why didn't she Let's all ponder this for a minute. If some of you finish pondering faster than the rest of us, let me give you a topic: Why does sour cream have an expiration date?

Why ask Rogers if all this stuff is true? Hamsher could easily dismiss the idea "CommonSense Media is a liberal ad network run by Hamsher and KMP Research is a business entity that Hamsher uses in both PACs to pay herself" but she hasn't. And if Rogers' story represents a semantic attack why not answer the questions he posed now. I am a former journalist and now a public relations professional with experience in the political arena. There are a lot of alarm bells going off here for me and I have no dog in this hunt. They probably were deafening to Rogers and that's why he did the piece.

Random thought #1. Does anyone run the headline "Who the hell is blah blah blah?" when they write something positive on a blog about these folks? It's ok to be a nobody and praise me but it's not ok to be a nobody and ask me tough questions. Amazing.

Random thought #2. Hey Rogers the pope is still pissed off about that column you did on him in the literary voice of Robin Leach (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous). Whoops. He's not. He's dead. But wait years later you squatted the pope's website. Is that why you did the column to begin with??????? Are you a Nazi...?????? As you can tell, I have been working on my Glen Beck impersonation. What do you think?


 

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