Has the day of reckoning finally come for the George Soros-funded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)?
CREW is the liberal so-called watchdog group that delights in making lofty pronouncements about its nonpartisan status but still manages to attack a lot more Republicans than Democrats.
Election campaigns can be downright nasty and rancorous. That’s a given, but CREW far exceeded the bounds of fair play last year.
Its most brazen hatchet job in recent memory came during the last election cycle when it shamelessly smeared Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell (R-Del.).
Longtime Democratic operative Melanie Sloan, who is CREW’s executive director, unleashed a vicious barrage of lies last September against O’Donnell, a tea party favorite.
CREW ﬁled a formal complaint with the Federal Elections Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s ofﬁce in Delaware, claiming the candidate had stolen money from her campaign accounts for personal expenses.
“Christine O’Donnell is clearly a criminal, and like any crook she should be prosecuted,” Sloan said in a press release.
“Ms. O’Donnell has spent years embezzling money from her campaign to cover her personal expenses. Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on much these days, but both sides should agree on one point: thieves belong in jail not the United States Senate.”
The allegations were bogus. Last month U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly III threw out the CREW complaint.
O’Donnell’s campaign committee has asked Oberly to “commence an investigation against the head of CREW for knowingly ﬁling a false claim, Mail Fraud and Wire Fraud amongst other pending charges.” The campaign argues that “CREW’s frivolous federal complaints” over the years “have cost numerous mostly Republican congressmen and candidates their elections, and caused their families untold harm.”
Would O’Donnell, who won an upset primary victory against then-incumbent Congressman Mike Castle (R-Del.), have won her contest in the absence of this calculated slander?
Since we don’t have a time machine we’ll never know.
Election law specialist Cleta Mitchell, who represents O’Donnell, said “the CREW complaint was nothing more than yet another partisan hit job” by Sloan.
As investigative reporter Fred Lucas writes in a current Capital Research Center newsletter, Sloan, a former assistant U.S. Attorney herself, ought to know better.
But perhaps her partisanship clouds her judgment. Sloan previously worked as counsel for the House Judiciary Committee under then-ranking member Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.). She was also counsel for the crime subcommittee chaired by then-Congressman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). In 1993, Sloan was nominations counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).
“There are few more partisan individuals who have served on the Democratic side than Conyers, Schumer, and Biden,” Lucas notes.
CREW can also be petty.
While the federal government routinely wastes billions of dollars, she savaged House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for daring to spend $500,000 –a pittance in Washington— to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court.
DOMA is the law of the land. Congress overwhelmingly approved it in 1996. The law sailed through the House on a vote of 342 to 67, and through the Senate 85 to 14, before being signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Yet CREW filed an ethics complaint against Boehner, contending it was wrong for him to direct the House Ofﬁce of General Counsel to retain outside counsel to defend the constitutionality of DOMA in court.
Although it is a longstanding practice for the Department of Justice to presume the constitutionality of federal statutes and defend them in the courts, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to do so.
CREW should have taken action against Holder, not Boehner.
Upholding ethics is clearly not a priority at CREW.
And no wonder. Though CREW regularly lambastes other activist groups for refusing to disclose their donors, it refuses to disclose the donors that provide its own nearly $3 million budget.
However, because foundations are required to disclose the recipients of their grants we know that CREW has received grants from far-left and center-left charitable foundations.
Here are some of the monies CREW has received: the Tides Foundation ($230,290 since 2002), Barbra Streisand Foundation ($10,000 in 2005), Arca Foundation ($250,000 since 2003), David Geffen Foundation ($5,000 in 2004), George Soros’s Open Society Institute ($250,000 in 2008), Carnegie Corp. of New York($200,000 since 2007), and the Gill Foundation ($425,000 since 2006).
Lucas’s report for Capital Research Center makes clear what’s wrong with CREW’s crew. It’s just a partisan advocacy group masquerading as a good government group. It demands that conservatives and Republicans confess to crimes they did not commit, while it turns a blind eye to the misdeeds of liberals and Democrats.
Terrence Scanlon is president of Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C. think tank that studies the politics of philanthropy. Scanlon was chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission during President Reagan’s second term.