Earlier today, a diary titled "How Jane Hamsher Spends Her PAC Money," made the rec. list. As expected, the comment section was filled to the brim with Hamsher-bashing innuendo. When does this nonsense stop? This diary made the rounds to other blogs as well, like Oliver Willis and Balloon Juice, which also decided it was a great opportunity for a Hamsher smear-job. Glenn Greenwald, Jane's partner at Accountability Now issued an email response to this ridiculous and irresponsible smear campaign at Balloon Juice. Here it is in it's entirety.
What you wrote about Accountability Now is a complete falsehood topped off by reckless innuendo:
(1) Every single fact about expenses that you cited by linking to some third party—as though these expenses were hidden and only unearthed by some intrepid investigation—were, in fact, copied directly from the Accountability Now website, where every penny spent is fully and publicly disclosed. The only reason you or anyone else know about any of this is because we fully disclosed every penny spent and on what it was spent.
It’s impossible to have greater disclosure of expenses than what we provided—both publicly (far beyond what the law requires) and to our donors.
(2) Contrary to the myth under which you are inexcusably and slothfully laboring, the purpose of Accountability Now—which I founded right on my blog—is not and never was to collect money to give them to candidates. If we had given the money we raised to candidates, that would be a total violation of the organization’s purpose. I just saw now that you retracted that claim you made, but two seconds of research by you—before recklessly spitting our your accusation—would have revealed how wrong you were.
The purpose of Accountability Now is and always was two-fold, and it’s exactly what we stated clearly from the start: (a) to create a network of organizational donors and supporters, to form an infrastructure that will enable progressive candidates to mount a credible challenge against incumbents, and (b) to recruit credible primary challengers by identifying vulnerable incumbents, finding good challengers, and then persuading them to run. That’s why the expenses are not contributions to political candidates. That has nothing to do with the group’s function.
(3) Contrary to the lie you told, the PAC is a resounding financial success, not a “financial failure.” Our accomplishments are long and publicly documented—and are detailed in our 2009 Year-End Report to donors, which is published right on the front page of the PAC’s site. Most of our accomplishments have been publicly reported in large news outlets.
We began by assembling a truly unprecedented and formidable coalition of some of the largest unions, grass-roots and advocacy groups, and top liberal bloggers to provide the infrastructure of support for recruited primary challengers, culminating in a half-day session of presentations we sponsored and organized for them in DC. For the last half of 2009, we played the lead role in recruiting Bill Halter to run against Blanche Lincoln: by physically visiting the district, interviewing local political leaders, communicating with Halter for months, forming a Draft Halter campaign, hosting an event for him in DC, and preparing reports and election analyses on his prospects for our coalition partners whose support was vital to convincing him to run (MoveOn, SEIU, Daily Kos, DFA and many others).
Recruiting Bill Halter to run against Blanche Lincoln—by outlining for him his path to electoral success and persuading him that the coalition we assembled would enable a real challenge to be mounted—was our top priority for the last six months and was a major success.
For the last year, we also physically visited many other districts around the country, conducted in-district polling, launched campaigns against bad incumbents to weaken them for a challenge, prepared lengthy reports for our coalition partners analyzing possible races, held regular conference calls with them to discuss who should be targeted, and met with numerous other potential primary recruits. The perception that this is a truly hideous political climate for Democrats made it difficult to convince people—beyond Halter—to endure the huge costs and risks to challenging a incumbent, but the network we created will endure.
We did all of that: (a) with only three people working regularly on all of this—me, Jane and an Executive Director, as well as a few per-project contractors (such as for communications and PR); (b) on a shoestring budget; and most of all© without ever once having to go back to our donors to raise funds after our initial mid-2008 fundraiser. That was possible because of how frugal we were with the hiring and spending.
An organization that functions for almost two full years based on one initial fund-raising event, that never has to go back to raise further funds, and that has accomplished what we have, is a huge financial success.
(4) All PACs—large and small—are subject to extremely rigorous legal, accounting and filing requirements. It’s impossible to comply without having lawyers and accountants who are familiar with these requirements do that work. That means that a PAC with a small budget, like ours, is going to spend a large amount of money on legal, accounting and administrative expenses. There’s no way around that. It’s true for every PAC that complies with these laws, as we did.
(5) Because all of the PAC’s work was done by 3 people, the work I did on Accountability Now was more time-consuming and demanding that anything else I did with the exception of my blog. Some months, it competed with my blogging work in terms of the time required. Had we hired someone to manage the PAC, we would have had to spend a lot more than $48,000/year (it was impossible to find a competent Executive Director anywhere near that amount, and the EDs we hired—none of whom we had any prior personal relationship with—were paid almost double that). Several months after the PAC was formed, we decided that, rather than hiring a full-time PAC Manager, Jane and I would split the responsibility of managing and overseeing the PAC and the minimal compensation for it because (a) we didn’t want to spend the far greater amounts of money to hire a PAC Manager full-time and (b) we knew best why our donors supported the PAC and how it should be run to fulfill that mission.
If someone is independently wealthy, I suppose they can work at what amounts to a demanding part-time job without pay, but that’s not my situation. For the work we had to do and still do managing it, $2,000/month is a significant under-payment. Go look at what people who run political PACs are paid – it’s usually 5 times that, at least.
In any event, all of this—payments to every last person—is and was fully disclosed for all the world to see. That’s the only reason you know about it.
(6) 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.
At what point do we stop with the ad hominems and simply agree to disagree with other progressives?
UPDATE: I have been asked several times during the thread if I had permission to post Glenn's response in its entirety. The answer is yes. I emailed him the moment the question was raised and he responded thusly, "It's absolutely OK - I sent my response to Doug because he, John Cole and I were discussing what was posted at Balloon-Juice (and they retracted the parts that were false). Doug then said he's[SIC] post it and I was fine with that -- so I'm of course fine with its being posted anywhere else.
The accusations that were spewed were transparent falsehoods and smears and I appreciate anyone who posts the facts. Thanks"