Disclosure For Thee, But Not For Me

While the White House continues to hammer the Chamber of Commerce with baseless charges of foreign influence, The Daily Caller notes that the Administration’s chief spokesperson wasn’t always in favor of full disclosure:

Under campaign finance law, the Chamber is not required to release the names of its donors. When pressed by reporters as to why groups not mandated by law should disclose their donors, Gibbs said they should do it in “the spirit of political disclosure.”

During the 2003-2004 presidential primary season, however, Gibbs worked as the spokesman for a liberal advocacy group that ran attack ads against then-Democratic candidate Howard Dean. The “secretive” group, called Americans for Jobs, Health Care & Progressive Values, spent months organizing scathing ads without disclosing who was paying for them.

One particularly damaging TV spot that aired in December 2003 showed a photograph of Osama Bin Laden while an ominous voice declared, “Americans want a president that can face the dangers ahead. But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy. It’s time for Democrats to think about that. And think about it now.” The ad, part of a series of anti-Dean spots, crippled the Dean campaign.

The Dean camp was furious, and called on the group to disclose who had funded the ad.

“Whoever is behind this should crawl out from underneath their rock and have the courage to say who they are,” Former Dean Spokesman Tricia Enright told The New York Times at the time. “It is hateful, it’s cynical, it’s exactly the kind of ad that keeps people from voting, that keeps people from getting involved in the process.”

The organization’s Treasurer, David Jones, refused.

“We will disclose donors when the law requires,” Jones was quoted as saying in The New York Times.

By law, organizations listed under the 527 tax code only have to reveal their donors once a quarter. Given the timing of the ad, Gibbs’ group knew they could withhold the names until after the January 2004 Iowa caucuses, which were about a month away from the time the Osama bin Laden spot hit the airways

How very convenient.

Of course, I’m not surprised to find hypocrisy in Washington. It exists on both sides of the aisle, and, apparently, inside the White House itself.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    I on the other hand, happily call for disclosure by both groups.

    I won’t play the “Disclosure For Thee, But Not For Me” game, as some here have done.

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    “It exists on both sides of the aisle, and, apparently, inside the White House itself.”

    Yeah it entered the WH in January 2009 as everyone knows. But then Doug we know already you have no objection to elections being secretly influenced by special interests from home or abroad.

  3. grampagravy says:

    The foreign money charges are baseless because the folks who won’t disclose SAY they are baseless? As a voter, I think guilty until proven innocent is the only way to deal with the slime infecting our politics!
    Gibbs is just a mouthpiece and not an elected official or a person of any influence on policy matters. Who cares what he’s done or even what he personally believes?

  4. Juneau: says:

    @ grampagravy

    As a voter, I think guilty until proven innocent is the only way to deal with the slime infecting our politics!

    There you go! As a voter I want to see;

    1) A complete list of the money donors for Obama’s 2008 election campaign
    2) A complete itemized list of the recipients of all of the TARP money
    3) A complete itemized list of all of the recipients of money from ALL THREE of the Stimulus bills
    4) Obama’s college transcripts
    5) Obama’s birth certificate, in long format

    I’m with you grampagravy – make ’em prove there’s nothing going on…

  5. john personna says:

    Juneau, shouldn’t you say that you want all those things for “Presidents” rather than “Obama” if you are demonstrating your neutrality?

    I was fine with just campaign contributions, since that seems the topic at hand.

    But if you want Obama’s college transcritps, why not GBW’s reserve service records?

    IOW, don’t make demands you can’t stand for your own folks.