Notorious Democratic Big Data shop Catalist accused of violating election law.

Regretfully, I need to add an important caveat to this quote:

[It is alleged that – ML] [a]n influential demographic analysis firm founded and run by Democratic operatives with close ties to Hillary Clinton repeatedly violated federal law in 2014 by coordinating its work with dozens of congressional Democrats and the party’s three major national campaign committees.

The charge was described in a 29-page complaint filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a right-leaning nonprofit watchdog. Fifteen pages of the complaint were required to list all of the entities the accountability foundation alleged were involved in multiple violations of the Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1971.


…because while I think that of course Catalist vigorously broke the law here,  I happen to be a partisan Republican hack, remember? I’m not exactly what one might call objective, in other words. You could tell me that Catalist was sacrificing baby harp seals to Cthulhu, and my immediate response would be to solemnly call for a special prosecutor in order to get to the bottom of this.

Now, that being said… federal election law is not Byzantine. The Byzantines built bureaucracies that worked for almost a thousand years, thank you very much. No, federal election law is a hot mess that is pretty much designed to look like it’s doing something all reform-like, while still allowing political operatives to run merrily through the ramshackle edifice; while both picking up, and throwing away, money as they go. So, no, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that Catalist might be provably dirty. And neither does it surprise me that Catalist might have gotten sloppy, either.  This Thing Of Ours has a history rich in instructive stories about reasonably smart people who did some very stupid things over campaign contributions. Or with them.

But that’s not the real question. The real question is, will the FEC do anything about this? Probably… not, but don’t lose hope quite yet.  From the Washington Free Beacon comes this important point:


According to the complaint, Catalist, a limited liability corporation, operates as a de facto political group. According to news reports, it is less concerned with turning a profit than with providing data services to Democrats at favorable rates.

However, political entities that receive services at below-market rates are required to disclose those services as in-kind contributions. FACT alleges that scores of Democratic politicians and political groups have failed to do so.

There’s a certain opportunity for infighting there, in other words; I know that they look like a Big Obsidian Monolith, but the reality is that the Democratic party is just as faction-ridden and mutually antagonistic as the Republican party is. Some of these groups would be very vulnerable to a FEC probe. Some of these groups’ enemies know that, too. And, who knows? Maybe somebody in the FEC still has a functioning conscience.

Hey, stranger things have happened. They told me that a Republican wasn’t going to win the 2014 governor’s race in Maryland, either.  So I’m not saying to go mad with optimism, but surely a taste wouldn’t hurt…

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: This entire situation would easily resolve itself if we simply all admitted once and for all that giving money to a group or candidate is a form of political speech, and thus expressly permitted and protected under the First Amendment. No games, no circumlocutions: give as much as you like, if you do so publicly. But until then, it is the special responsibility of the Democrats to follow federal election campaign finance law to the absolute letter. If they can’t, that should tell them something. It won’t, but it should.



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