Dissecting an Error-Laden Post: Brayton v. Brayton
Max Blumenthal printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 03:16:34 AM EST
Ed Brayton has asserted on Talk2Action that my report on Tony Perkins' political relationship with David Duke is "inaccurate on the minor points." Actually, my reporting was based on solid facts clearly established by the Federal Elections Commission and the Louisiana press, which confirmed Perkins' payments to Duke well before I did.

Brayton was right the first time when, in a recent post on Perkins, he wrote that Perkins paid $82,500 to Duke during a 1996 political campaign. He went wrong, however, when he trusted the word of Family Research Council propagandist Joe Carter (whom he described as "honorable and honest") and corrected himself. Now Brayton must issue corrections -- again.

Here are the "minor points" Brayton says I got wrong:
It does not appear that any mailing list was bought at all; rather, a contract was given to Duke's company to make phone calls on their behalf. And the $82,500 figure that Blumenthal uses was not any fee paid to Duke but was the figure that the FEC said would be the usual fine for the violation of FEC regulations in the case (though they settled for only $3000).

Brayton is confused on the first point. Perkins cut checks to Duke's Impact Mail for his phone banking list, not as a fee for them to "make phone calls." Perkins bought the list so the senatorial campaign of Woody Jenkins, which he was managing at the time, could make "robo-calls" to reliably conservative voters urging them to get to the polls. Impact Mail sold its list to other campaigns (causing great scandals in the process), but it never made phone calls on any campaign's behalf.

Brayton's second point, that "the $82,500 figure that Blumenthal uses was not any fee paid to Duke but was the figure that the FEC said would be the usual fine for the violation of FEC regulations," is completely wrong. Brayton appears to have misread the FEC filing against Jenkins and Perkins that he cites in his own post. Contrary to Brayton's assertion, Perkins indeed paid $82,500 to Duke's Impact mail (through a third-party surrogate to cover his tracks). He did so in a series of three checks. The proof is in section 6 of the 1999 conciliation agreement between the Jenkins campaign and the Federal Election Commission, which was signed by Woody Jenkins:

After the 1996 primary election in Louisiana, David Duke contacted Woody Jenkins and recommended that he use the services of a computerized phone bank system run by Impact Mail. Jenkins purchased several rounds of calls from Impact Mail. After the first round of calls, Jenkins began hearing complaints that Duke's name would appear on the caller ID when a phone bank message would arrive. At that point, Jenkins tried to cancel the transaction but was unable to because Tony Perkins, his campaign manager, had signed a contract with Impact Mail. Subsequently, Jenkins instructed Perkins to put a stop payment on the check issued to Impact Mail and directed that Impact Mail be paid through Courtney Communications, the campaign's media finn. The Jenkins Committee issued three 27,500 checks to Courtney. Courtney, in turn, made out three checks in the same amount to Impact Mail.

Brayton goes on to write that "Perkins' response is inaccurate on the big things," essentially agreeing with the main thrust of my argument -- that Perkins knew all along that he was dealing with Duke.

Perkins has denied knowingly paying Duke before. When Perkins pleaded ignorance about his KKK connection during his hapless attempt to unseat Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2002, he was promptly slapped down by the Baton Rouge Advocate. In a scathing July 29, 2002 editorial, the Advocate wrote:

No one emerges with credit from association with David Duke. Astonishingly, some of Louisiana's leading politicians were in bed with the former Imperial Wizard.

Duke's political heyday in the state had seemed to be over after he was crunchingly defeated in the 1991 gubernatorial runoff by another self-proclaimed "wizard under the sheets," Edwin W. Edwards. But a raft of politicos were more than happy to pay Duke for his supposed influence with voters on the lunatic fringe.

Six years after the fact, the Federal Elections Commission fined former U.S. Senate candidate Woody Jenkins $3,000 for illegally concealing his 1996 campaign purchase of a phone bank linked to former Ku Klux Klan leader Duke.

The commission also fined the Republican Party of Louisiana $10,000 for improperly disclosing printing costs it paid for the Jenkins campaign and leaving the party's name off pro-Jenkins direct mail that it financed.

Jenkins lost the Senate race by 5,788 votes in a runoff with Democrat Mary Landrieu, who is up for re-election this fall. Jenkins' Senate campaign manager, state Rep. Tony Perkins of Pride, who signed the $82,500 contract for the Duke phone bank, is among three Republicans challenging Landrieu.

Jenkins' use of the Duke phone bank, operated by a company called Impact Mail Ltd., came to light in 1999, when a federal grand jury began investigating Duke's finances. That's when voters learned that Gov. Mike Foster, running his first statewide campaign in 1995, also bought Duke's mailing list for $152,000.

The governor's campaign was eventually fined $20,000 by the state Board of Ethics for concealing the purchase. Arguably, a fairer fine would have been $152,000.

At the FEC, commissioners apparently wanted to fine Jenkins the full amount of the Duke contract, but Jenkins said he could not pay that much. It is a measure of the slow and ineffectual processes of the FEC that it took years to grind out these decisions.

The association with Duke cannot help Perkins in this year's campaign.

Perkins told The Times-Picayune Tuesday that he didn't find out "the complete Duke connection" until after the 1996 Senate campaign. He said Jenkins "handled most of those details" involved in the transaction.

The checks, though, were cut on Perkins' watch. It was a violation of federal election law to route them through the campaign's media firm - Courtney Communications, headed by former newscaster Bob Courtney of Baton Rouge - so that the Duke connection would be concealed from voters.

It is a taint.

Yet such is the shamelessness of Louisiana politicians - and the lack of outrage among Louisiana voters - that politicians have so often risen above ties to an utterly shameless bigot like David Duke.


Brayton goes on to say that "none of [Perkins' connections to Duke] proves that Perkins is a racist, of course." Of course?

Even after the humiliation that Perkins earned from his association with the KKK's most famous former member, Perkins headlined a fundraiser for the Lousiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens. The CofCC is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "a hate group that routinely denigrated blacks as 'genetically inferior,' complained about 'Jewish power brokers,' called homosexuals 'perverted sodomites,' accused immigrants of turning America into a 'slimy brown mass of glop,' and named Lester Maddox, the baseball bat-wielding, arch-segregationist former governor of Georgia, 'Patriot of the Century.' I noted Perkins' appearance at the Louisiana CofCC fundraiser and am puzzled at Brayton's omission of this important detail.

Is Perkins a racist? The burden of proof should be on him, not on the bloggers of Talk2Action.




Display:
Thanks for the details, Max. I am persuaded. But manners, please.

:-)

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 07:52:36 AM EST

Ed Brayton should issue corrections and retract his statement asserting I was "inaccurate on the minor points."

by Max Blumenthal on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 04:13:38 AM EST

Max wrote:

Brayton is confused on the first point. Perkins cut checks to Duke's Impact Mail for his phone banking list, not as a fee for them to "make phone calls." Perkins bought the list so the senatorial campaign of Woody Jenkins, which he was managing at the time, could make "robo-calls" to reliably conservative voters urging them to get to the polls. Impact Mail sold its list to other campaigns (causing great scandals in the process), but it never made phone calls on any campaign's behalf.

I don't see any evidence anywhere that any mailing list was actually bought. There is a distinction between hiring a company to use their own mailing list to make calls on one's behalf and buying a mailing list that you can use on your own behalf. I've contracted for and paid for telemarketing and direct mail campaigns myself for business purposes and there is a big difference between paying a company to do a campaign using their in-house mailing lists and paying them to get their mailing list (the latter is considerably more expensive because you can use that list over and over again). The FEC report indicates that they contracted them to make the calls, not that they bought the list themselves:

After the 1996 primary election in Louisiana, David Duke contacted Woody Jenkins and recommended that he use the services of a computerized phone bank system run by Impact Mail. Jenkins purchased several rounds of calls from Impact Mail.

Again, there is a distinction between purchasing rounds of calls and purchasing the list from which those calls would be made. It's possible that they also bought the actual list, but I don't see any evidence for that in the FEC documents. You assert that it was not a fee for them to make phone calls, but the FEC document suggests otherwise. In the absence of evidence for that, I think it would be more accurate to say that they contracted with Duke's company to make calls rather than that they bought a mailing list. A minor point, of course, but that is exactly what I labeled it.

Second point:

Brayton's second point, that "the $82,500 figure that Blumenthal uses was not any fee paid to Duke but was the figure that the FEC said would be the usual fine for the violation of FEC regulations," is completely wrong. Brayton appears to have misread the FEC filing against Jenkins and Perkins that he cites in his own post. Contrary to Brayton's assertion, Perkins indeed paid $82,500 to Duke's Impact mail (through a third-party surrogate to cover his tracks). He did so in a series of three checks.

Ah, my mistake. I did indeed misread the FEC document on this. When it said $27,500, I missed the fact that there were three checks for that amount, which of course total $82,500. When I saw the $82,500 figure at the end, I thought perhaps that was where the figure came from since there was no other document with that figure on it. On this one, I was obviously wrong and you were right.

Brayton goes on to write that "Perkins' response is inaccurate on the big things," essentially agreeing with the main thrust of my argument -- that Perkins knew all along that he was dealing with Duke.

No, that isn't what I said. I said that it's perfectly plausible that Perkins did not know about the connection to Duke at the time the contract was signed. I don't know for sure whether he did or didn't, nor do you, but I think there's a reasonable argument to be made that he didn't know those connections at the time (which of course is not the same thing as claiming that he did not know, only that we don't have enough evidence to be certain that he did).

However, I did say, and still maintain, that at the very least, Perkins must have known about those connections when the calls started coming in complaining about Duke's name being on the caller ID and when Jenkins instructed him to stop payment on the check to Impact Mail and to launder those payments through another company. At that point, I find it extremely implausible that he did not A) know about the caller IDs showing Duke's name and B) didn't ask Jenkins why they were sending the money for Impact Mail through another company - and especially why it was important enough to stop payment on a check, which is not exactly routine procedure. So I do believe the evidence clearly suggests that Perkins must have known about Duke's involvement at the time the cover up began, and he was then a part of the cover up (he wrote the checks, after all). That, I think, is the most damaging part of the story and the part of the story clearly supported by the evidence at hand.

I also agree about his appearance before the CCC. I find it highly implausible that he did not know that the CCC was a racist organization and I said so in a posting on my own blog and in a response to a comment by Joe Carter. Before Perkins spoke to a CCC gathering there were relatively major scandals involving several other prominent conservatives speaking to them, including Bob Barr, Jesse Helms and Trent Lott. David Keene, the head of CPAC, had famously refused to allow the CCC in to a major conservative gathering because of their racist views and the head of the Republican National Committee had publicly declared them to be a racist group. Is it possible that Perkins didn't know? I suppose so. But I find it highly unlikely.

I only had two quibbles with Max's reporting, the claim that Perkins had actually bought a mailing list and the claim that he paid $82,500. Clearly, he was right about the last part - mea culpa on that one. But I still think the first claim is inaccurate. A big deal? Not really. It's a minor point and that is exactly what I called it. Perkins still comes out of all this looking pretty bad, as he should, but not so much because the evidence says that he deliberately sought out Duke to get his mailing list (the evidence doesn't confirm that), but because once he found out they'd contracted with a company that was connected to Duke, he helped cover that up and broke the law in the process. If he was really as opposed to Duke as he claims and really as ethical as he would have us believe, he would have resigned, refused to take part in laundering those payments to Duke's company, and blew the whistle on the whole thing.

by Ed Brayton on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 01:19:43 PM EST


Regarding Brayton's first point,
here is what I originally wrote:

"In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,500 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke."

Nowhere did I say that Perkins "bought" the mailing list of David Duke. Brayton accuses me of writing that, however, and quibbles with the point. Yet it is a point I never made. I only stated that Perkins paid Duke. That much is established and Brayton should issue a correction to reflect that.

by Max Blumenthal on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 02:00:10 PM EST

Now we're getting into real hair-splitting. I think "paid him for his mailing list" would be thought by most people to mean "bought his mailing list." There are more accurate ways to put this. Rather than saying that Perkins paid Duke for his mailing list, it's more accurate to say that they paid a Duke-owned company to make phone calls on their behalf. It's also more accurate to say that we know that Jenkins directed Perkins to contract with that company, but we don't know that Perkins knew that the company was affiliated with Duke at that time. We can say with some certainty, as I argued previously, that he must have known about Duke's involvement by the time the cover up started and chose to go along with it anyway. And that's quite bad enough. My point is that the statement about the situation could have been made more accurately without diluting the ultimate reality, which we mostly agree on. And it's important to get those details right in order to avoid having that conclusion impeached by carelessness (and I say that as someone who just rightly got criticized for carelessly missing the payment amount in the FEC filing; it is as important for me as it is for anyone else).

by Ed Brayton on Fri Sep 28, 2007 at 03:37:55 PM EST
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