Newsletter June 2012

The Monthly Newsletter of CREW  //  June 2012  //  Issue No. 61

SPOTLIGHT: Rupert Murdoch and News Corp.

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Under U.S. law, broadcast frequencies may only be used by people of good "character," who will serve "the public interest," and speak with "candor."  After Great Britain's House of Commons concluded both Rupert and James Murdoch turned a blind eye to the illicit activities at News Corp., it's hard to see how they can meet these standards. 

In response to inaction by U.S. authorities, CREW called on the Federal Communications Commission to revoke the 27 Fox broadcast licenses held by News Corp.  This follows a previous request to the House and Senate Commerce Committees for hearings into the phone hacking scandal.  Allies have now joined us in renewing the call for congressional hearings to determine whether the Murdochs possess the requisite character to broadcast over U.S. airwaves. 


CREW to House Leadership: Rep. Buchanan Must Resign

Vern BuchananspacerAfter a lengthy investigation, the Office of Congressional Ethics reported there is "substantial reason to believe" Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) illegally tried to coerce his former business partner into signing a false affidavit.  It's been almost four years since we first filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) regarding Rep. Buchanan's attempts to cover up an illegal campaign contribution scheme, and less than a year since we asked the FBI to investigate charges of witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and bribery.

As a result of these findings, we've called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to demand Rep. Buchanan's resignation.  The congressman's criminal and ethical problems have become far too great for him to continue serving in the House of Representatives.


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Earmarks: The Gifts That Keep on Giving

Thanks to the "Prince of Pork," Kentucky-based Phoenix Products is living high on the hog.  An ongoing CREW investigation exposed how Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) steered an earmark to the company, owned by contributors to his campaign, to produce a part for the Army's Black Hawk helicopter.  To date, the earmark is responsible for about $6.5 million worth of federal contracts.  What's even worse than the blatant backscratching is that the Army is paying nearly eight times more for the part than it has to.



CREW Files Supreme Court Brief Supporting Montana Campaign Finance Law

Two years after the disastrous Citizens United decision, we are still working hard to rein in the corrupting influence of money in politics.  CREW and other campaign finance reform advocates joined in asking the Supreme Court not to review a recent Montana State Supreme Court decision upholding the state's prohibition on corporate political expenditures.  If the Court refuses to review the Montana Supreme Court's ruling, other states would be free to reinstate or enforce laws of their own to rein in corporate campaign expenditures.  

Should the Supreme Court decide to review the decision, we've asked that it also reconsider its holding in Citizens United


CREW Asks Attorney General Holder to Clarify DOJ Position on FEC's Relevance

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Our criminal justice system is based on the idea we have fair notice of what is and is not against the law.  Unfortunately, the Department of Justice (DOJ) seems to have forgotten this fundamental American precept.  In the trial of disgraced former presidential candidate John Edwards, a DOJ prosecutor agued that determinations made by the FEC are "not relevant" to criminal charges in the case.  This contradicts a 2009 letter from DOJ to CREW claiming there must be no doubt the FEC considers conduct a violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act for the Justice Department to get involved. 

DOJ can't have it both ways.  It can't claim it must defer to the FEC one day, then argue that the FEC's views are irrelevant the next.  We've called on Attorney General Eric Holder to explain DOJ's position as to when it will prosecute criminal campaign finance violations.


What CREW Has Learned About Don Young

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In response to a court order, DOJ released hundreds of pages from the FBI's investigative files regarding Rep. Don Young (R-AK) to CREW.  Even with redactions, these documents tell a remarkable story of greed and corruption, detailing Rep. Young's misuse of campaign funds to cover personal expenses.  The documents reveal how Rep. Young used his campaign coffers as a slush fund to cover personal travel with his wife to Alaska, meals, dry cleaning, and even hunting trips. 

In the end, DOJ's Public Integrity Section pulled the plug on the investigation, fearing it couldn't secure a conviction.  Nevertheless, some of these documents suggest Rep. Young may still be the subject of an ongoing investigation.