Gillespie: Conservative Donors Want Anonymity Out Of Fear Of Government Retribution

09/27/2010 06:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

Former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie, who has spearheaded some of the most aggressive outside-government conservative efforts this election cycle, argued on Monday that such groups don't reveal their donors out of fear of government retribution.

Speaking at the a Google/Politico conference on the midterm elections, Gillespie was asked a question posed by his predecessor on the dais, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod. Why are the big-moneyed conservative donors funding these vaguely named political groups hiding behind the cloak of anonymity?

Gillespie started off by arguing that the same type of shadow politics takes place on both sides of the aisle. He also noted that one half of his own group -- American Crossroads -- did disclose his donors. Then he turned the well-funded donor into the helpless victim.

[I]f you look at the history of donors on the right giving to a certain causes or organizations, they have been subject to some pretty vicious attacks from the organized left. People who gave to a referendum out in California were flooded with emails pretty nasty in nature and had their jobs threatened. You saw what happened with Target who supported a candidate for governor in Minnesota and then all of the sudden the organized left went after Target.

And the fact is, a lot of these folks who are opposed to more government control in our economy and more government intervention in our economy are already to subject to a great deal of government control and regulation in our economy. And there is fear of retribution. There is a fear that well, if I give to this organization, those who are in control and power and who seek to further government control might give my sector or my company or my own personal lives, they might come after me.

The response echoes the type of outcries that conservatives had last week, when Koch Industries, a major player in Republican politics, accused the Obama administration of snooping through its IRS files in an attempt to discredit them. It also plays well into a common GOP theme that Democrats will freely use the levers of government for their political advantage.

But there is an obvious rejoinder for those who have protested the massive wave of conservative money being funneled through these obscure outlets. If spending money on campaigns is a First Amendment right, then so to is the act of protesting those donations. The government hasn't intervened against Target for its involvement in the Minnesota gubernatorial race. It was Moveon.org which organized its members to boycott the retail giant -- a fairly straightforward, questionably effective and decidedly non-controversial form of protest.

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