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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

As seen on TV

Satirist Stephen Colbert has been having a lot of fun with his "super-PAC" -- his political action committee. One of the hilarious things he's done with it is to set up on the side a "civic league," a so-called 501(c)(4) organization, to show that although PACs are transparent, 501(c)(4)'s are not. And the 501(c)(4) corporation, which does not have to disclose its donors, can make contributions to the PAC,with the PAC never saying where the 501(c)(4) got its money. Colbert compares it to money laundering, and as usual, it's hard to disagree with him.

It's a ridiculous system, quite worthy of the lampoon. And while guffawing at the absurdity of it all, we can't help but think about the Bus Project, brainchild of Portland mayoral candidate Jefferson Smith, which is set up the same way. As we found out when we looked last fall, with "Bus," there's a PAC, and a 501(c)(4). They're both called "Bus" something or other, there's overlap of personnel, and the stage seems set for the type of quiet back-door funding that Colbert makes fun of.

But with the Bus Project, things get even more brazen than they are on TV, in that there's a third organization called "Bus," a section 501(c)(3) organization, also in the picture. Contributions to 501(c)(3) organizations are not only discreet, but they're also tax-deductible (unlike gifts to 501(c)(4)'s). And so it appears that the Smithmeister not only is organized to push the envelope as Colbert illustrates, but he also throws the prospect of tax-deductibility into the enterprise.

We're sure the smug folks at the Bus complex think they have it all covered legally. Maybe they do. But just maybe, a tax auditor could have a field day looking into the tangled arrangements over there. In any event, when we're laughing along with Colbert, Portland voters should remember who's prominently in the group that he's damning with his humor.

Comments (3)

While you post articles critical of Jefferson Smith your advertising advocates for him--and I suspect that pays to keep your blog online. I'm all for it.

This is actually SOP in the political world... HRC, NRA... everybody sets it up pretty much the same way.... a 3 a 4 and a pac.

Not sure this is the pony to ride against Jeff S.

Yeah, behaving like the NRA is nothing to be ashamed of. They're just "educating the public," and Jeffer-Sten is just "empowering young voters." He's a party hack disguised as something different.

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