O'Reilly Threatens to Report Franken to the FEC, Lawyer Claims Air America Radio Is "Money Laundering"
Reported by Marie Therese - February 23, 2006
According to the Washington Post, a group of wealthy liberals have formed a consortium whose goal is to raise $200 million to support progressive causes and disseminate a new message to the American voter. Needless to say, the much older Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, funded to the tune of $300 million by the Scaife, Olin, Bradley and Coors family foundations, has pretty much had a lock on all things media for a whole lot of years. Clearly, when someone like Bill O'Reilly hears about liberals with money he becomes frightened and unhinged, at which point he falls back on innuendo and threats, as he did last night (2-22-06) on the O'Reilly Factor.
During a four-minute waste of good airtime, O'Reilly, who hates Al Franken with a passion, rehashed a story that has been thrown onto the conservative dung heap by a blogger named Brian Maloney, a Boston O'Reilly wannabe who spends his time trying (unsuccessfully) to bring down Air America Radio in the hopes that someone, anyone will pay attention to him.
In a "report" peppered with the usual caveats (like "some believe") O'Reilly used his best tabloid smear tactics to tell his viewers that Al Franken, who may or may not be running for the Senate, could be engaged in election fraud, a charge that Bill himself ADMITTED HE COULD NOT VERIFY AND WHICH MIGHT NOT EVEN BE ILLEGAL.
Here's O'Reilly's argument, in a nutshell:
1. The Democracy Alliance is MAYBE going to donate $8 million to keep Air America Radio on the air through the 2006 election. (O'Reilly used the words "is reportedly going to donate," clearly indicating that he has absolutely no idea whether or not such a donation is going to be made.)
2. Al Franken's salary is paid by Air America Radio.
3. Al Franken may or may not run for the Senate in Minnesota.
4. Al Franken "will borrow against his Air America salary to launch his Senate race" until he can pay it back from donations (a common practice used by many who wish to run for office).
5. Since Al Franken MIGHT POSSIBLY get a salary that MIGHT POSSIBLY come from funds donated by the "Democracy Alliance," then Al Franken MIGHT POSSIBLY be guilt of election fraud.
6. Therefore, outraged citizen that he is, O'Reilly stated that he is going to file a report on this with the Federal Election Commission.
An accommodating bleached blonde lawyer named Cleta Mitchell was only too happy to provide O'Reilly with carefully worded legal-sounding gobbledegook that purported to shed light on the "legality" of Franken's supposed, maybe, sometime in the future, possible actions.
What FOX News Channel neglected to tell its viewers is that , in addition to being a lawyer, Ms. Mitchell supports Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family and was active in the 2004 Republican campaign, working to get five of her clients elected to the U. S. Senate. In a 2004 interview she said her immediate goal was to "[h]elp my five U.S. Senate candidate clients get elected in 2004: Russ Darrow in Wisconsin, Speaker Johnnie Byrd in Florida, former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys in Oklahoma, Jack Ryan in Illinois, and Congressman David Vitter in Louisiana."
Oops! Ms. Mitchell's clients didn't do so well: Russ Darrow lost to Ross Feingold, Jack Ryan dropped out of the race after revelations of sexual impropriety, Republican Mel Martinez won the Florida Senate race and Dr. Tom Coburn is the Republican Senator from Oklahoma. One win, four losses. Ms. Mitchell is also writing a book. Wonder if she's shopping it to a Murdoch-owned publishing house?
O'Reilly really skirted the law himself when he said the following: "... all rich, far-left guys. Now they have and we have the - ah - (long pause) - data, alright, told Air America they're gonna give them $8 million to keep 'em afloat until November so they can hammer home liberal candidates. Is that a violation?" Even Maloney was very careful to use phrases like "are poised to" or "may be" in his original report.
Ms. Mitchell spent her four minutes of fame clearly wanting to give legal gravitas to O'Reilly's accusations.
MITCHELL: What this really means is that Air America - they are turning Air America into what ought to be a regulated political committee ...
O'REILLY (excited)): Right! Right!
MITCHELL: ... that's subject to the ...
O'REILLY: It's basically they've bought ...
MITCHELL: That's right.
O'REILLY: ... 40 stations or whatever they're on [it's actually 89 stations] - radio stations - to get across a propaqganda point of view
O'REILLY: ... under the guise of competing in the marketplace.
During the following exchange, Cleta Mitchell claims that Air America Radio is engaged in "money laundering."
O'REILLY: It's almost like George Soros and [Peter] Lewis comin' with a lot of dough and handin' it to 'em, is it not?
MITCHELL: It's money laundering. It's money laundering.
O'REILLY: Well, I'm not gonna make that accusation. I mean, it looks that way. We're not for sure. We don't know yet.
MITCHELL: If he [Franken] takes money that - from these wealthy donors and converts that to his own - supposedly his own money - so he can put it into his campaign.
O'REILLY (loudly): But it is his own money because he's gettin' paid a salary. They're payin' Air America and Air America's payin' him.
Remember, that according to Maloney's report, whom Bill O'Reilly cited as his source early in the segment, this is not a done deal: Maloney notes: "Through an emergency bailout plan, a coalition of wealthy liberal political activists are poised to at least temporarily save Air America Radio. On the way: as much as $8 million in sorely-needed cash to fund ongoing operations."
MITCHELL: There are FEC [Federal Election Commission] advisory opinions going back for many years which address this issue which preclude payments to a candidate so - and the guise of salary when it really isn't ...
O'REILLY: But he isn't an announced candidate yet.
O'REILLY: That's the problem. Well, what we're gonna ...
MITCHELL: It goes back for two years.
O'REILLY: What we're - it goes back two years. That's interesting.
O'REILLY: We're gonna ask the FEC to look into Air America, that's what we're gonna do.
MITCHELL: I think that's a good idea.
O'REILLY: Yeah. And we appreciate you comin' on, counselor. Thanks very much.
MITCHELL: Alright. Thank you.
Just what we needed: Another well-researched, clear-headed, factual news report from the guy who brought us the War on Christmas and is probably working, right now, on the War on Easter.
Friday, 12:35 PM EST
Believe it or not, I owe Bill O'Reilly an apology! I also owe one to the The Alliance for Democracy, a grassroots organization.
A representative of The Alliance for Democracy just called to tell me, very politely (thank goodness) that they have no relationship with and are separate from Democracy Alliance.
She said this has happened before and corroborated Bill O'Reilly's statement that the Democracy Alliance is extremely hard to reach because the people at Alliance for Democracy have tried on several occasions to do so.
The incorrect paragraphs have been removed, butI'm reprinting the informatiion for Alliance for Democracy below. It seems like a very good group and one you might consider donating to or volunteering for.
A very red faced,
THE ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY
PO Box 540115 (all mail)
760 Main Street
Waltham, MA 02454-0115