Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Behind the FEC Report

Al Franken is finding out that being a politician isn't exactly what he thought it would be from watching the West Wing all those years:

I often think about how badly we need public financing of elections in this country. We need it because I should be out talking to Minnesotans about the issues that matter to their families. We need it so that I can spend my days meeting with policy experts and reading up on legislation and working with progressives all over the state to build a movement that can take on Norm Coleman next fall.

Yes, Al has been forced to lower himself to calling people and asking for money for his campaign and he doesn't like it. Like any good liberal, he'd prefer a government subsidy instead, so he can have more time at his disposal to pass laws giving other people government subsidies.

Despite his frustration with having to convince voters to fund his efforts rather than the government, he's been very successful at it. To the tune of $1.3 million in the first quarter of 2007, according to his FEC report.

That FEC filing is a fascinating document. Did you know that anyone running for federal office in this country has to submit a detailed form to the government, listing the names, address, occupations of all people who gave them money, along with the amount given? It's true. I believe this level of intrusion into free association and political behavior has been around for some time. But I wouldn't have known that if Al Franken hadn't come along and turned the paperwork into a page from Variety Magazine.

The stars have come out in force for Al Franken. Sen. Norm Coleman, the man holding the seat Franken covets, is even using this form as evidence that Franken is not fit to be Minnesota's senator, based on the company he keeps. Hard to argue with that when you see people like this flocking to Franken's side:

"Me too," said co-host Rosie O'Donnell. "I'm maxing out to him. I'm maxing out my contribution."

A review of Franken's FEC filing shows Rosie has not yet put her money where her enormous mouth is. Maybe she's waiting to hear whether or not Franken agrees with her that 9/11 was an inside job before she ponies up.

Rosie aside, the left-wing celebrity activists you would expect to see supporting a fashionably unjustifiable and destructive cause are present. But there are a lot of other celebrities on this list, some I heretofore had some level of respect for. Yes, I understand one must at times separate entertainment and state. But it is exceedingly difficult to respect anyone who would willingly give money for the purpose of sending an embittered, loud mouth, nominal comedian to do one of the most important jobs in the country. Especially when those people don't even live in Minnesota.

What follows is a litany of the radical chic outside agitators who've donated money to Franken's campaign. To paraphrase one of their other heroes, Michael Dukakis, I don't question their artistic talent, I question their judgment.

Bill Maher - $1,000. OK, I question his artistic talent. But I understand his donation. Embittered, loud mouth, unfunny liberal comedians making millions in Hollywood have to stick together.

Tom Hanks - $4,600. Ouch. It's hard not to like Tom hanks. But this is the most thoroughly disreputable thing he's done since Turner & Hooch. In fact, I would have respected him more if he'd have donated money to elect his slobbering hound costar to the US Senate instead.

Donna Dixon Akroyd - $2,300. Longtime wife of Dan Akroyd and Hanks' blond bombshell Bosom Buddies costar It's sad to think the historical integrity of that crossdressing 80's sitcom rests upon the thin shoulders of Peter Scolari, who has not, yet, donated to Franken.

Jane Curtain - $4600. The woman Dan Akroyd used to regularly refer to as an "ignorant slut" on one of those legendary, and not funny, SNL sketches from the golden years. It looks like maybe she's finally come around to Dan's way of thinking.

Paul Newman - $4600. I'll never be able to drown my spaghetti with Newman's Own Sockarooni with the same carefree zest again.

Lucy Lawless - $2,000. Xena, Warrior Princess. What the three headed Zorgon couldn't destroy, the FEC filing report lays to waste. BTW, I thought this gal was from New Zealand. Is she legally able to intrude into our political system? Somebody check her Z visa.

Kevin Bacon - $1,000. Another bitter pill to swallow. But this does expand the options of the Kevin Bacon game. It used to take like 23 steps to connect Kevin Bacon and say, Lucy Lawless. Now there is only one. Plus everyone else on the Franken FEC filing is now only one step away from Kevin Bacon. Congratulations, Howard Stewart, auto worker from Ann Arbor Michigan, you are one step away from Kevin Bacon. And two steps from Lucy Lawless.

Larry Hagman - $500. JR Ewing. Is he still alive? Or has the Democratic dream of giving dead people the franchise finally been realized?

Robert Smigel - $4600. The man behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. You know, if he supports Franken, maybe there is something worthwhile about the man. For me to poop on!

Leonard Nimoy - $4000. Dammit Spock!

Shawn Otto - $250 - The writer of the painfully dull, depressing, and award winning movie "The House of Sand and Fog." He is also the husband of Minnesota's Auditor Rebecca Otto. A search of her state campaign donation filing indicates that, while Al Franken did not personally donate to her campaign, his political action committee, Midwest Values PAC, kicked in $500. Some quid pro quo perhaps? But the Ottos are coming back a little light here. Maybe they're waiting until Shawn can sell the rights to The House of Sand and Fog II: Unstable Foundation.

Others donors I recognize, by category:

Family Members
Frances Franken -$ 4,600 - his wife
Joseph Franken - $4600 - his son
Thomasin Franken $2300 - his daughter. And part time Huffington Post contributor. I particularly like her charming take on take on urinating in public restrooms.

Other entertainers
Jason Alexander - $4,600. Down goes George Costanza.
Barbara Bosson - $1,000. Last seen on Hill Street Blues 20 years ago. And she can still kick in a grand?
Beth Broderick - $1,000 - Aunt Zelda on Sabrina, The Teen-Age Witch.
Larry David/Laurie David - $4600 each.
Buck Henry - $1,000.
James Morrison - $250. Actor on 24.
Bob Odenkirk - $2,000.
Garry Trudeau - $1,000 - Doonesbury
Bradley Whitford - $4600 - West Wing
Marlo Thomas - $4600 - That Girl!
Phil Donahue - $4600 - That Lousy Talk Show Host!

Lorne Michaels - $4600. SNL Creator
James L Brooks - $4600 - The Simpsons creator.
Jonathan Demme - $2300
Richard Donner - $2000
Nora Ephron - $2300
Peter Farrelly - $4600 - "Dumb and Dumber" creator.
Marshall Herskovitz - $1,000. 30 Something creator. It's interesting to note that he donated a single dollar on 3/1, then $999 on March 2. Perhaps a new genre of comedy, FEC Filing Zingers. Tonight on NBC!
Barry Levinson - $4600.
Rob Reiner - $2300 - Meathead on All in the Family
Harvey Weinstein $4600
Edward Zwick - $2300

Don Henley - $1,000
Stone Gossard - $2,000
Bonnie Raitt - $1,000.
Linda Ronstadt - $1,500

Paul Begala - $1000
Geraldine Ferraro - $1000
Karenna Gore Schiff - $500.
Warren Spanus - $250

Craig Newmark $500 - Craig's List.
Melvin Simon - $4600 - the guy behind the Mall of America.
George Zimmer - $4600. The guy behind The Men's Warehouse..

And, finally, the most painful discovery of all.

Ben Stein - $1,000. Legendary Ferris Beuhler actor, game show host, and brilliant conservative. Former speech writer for Richard Nixon and columnist for the American Spectator and Yahoo Finance, among other outlets. One of the finest writers around on politics, economics, and culture, as demonstrated in this listing. In particular, he's one the most articulate and persuasive speakers advocating the pro-life stance in the country.

And he's giving money to Al Bleeping Franken? A guy who's never found a liberal position on abortion he didn't like (as shown by the $5,000 contribution he also received from something called Washington Women for Choice.) How in the world can Ben Stein be supporting Al Franken?

Rather than engage in rank speculation, I have chosen to utilize the most powerful tool in the Internet journalist arsenal, the email interview. And believe it or not, Stein wrote me back. The disturbing transcript follows:

SP: I was recently reviewing Al Franken's FEC filing for donations and expenditures. I must say I was a little surprised to find what I believe to be your name on the contributors list (if he was paying you, I'd applaud it). I'm a great admirer of your work from the American Spectator and the other media commentary you've provided over the years. But I always thought you were reasonably conservative in your orientation. So why in the world do you want to stick up poor Minnesotans (and the rest of the country) with a comedian who fancies himself a second coming of secular St. Wellstone? He's going to be about as far left as one can be in polite company in this country. If you're friends with the guy, I understand the motivation. But actions like these have consequences. Can't you just shake his hand extra friendly-like at the next cocktail party and leave it at that?

BS: Al is a close friend and one of the smartest people I have ever met.

SP: One final question, with all due respect. I believe you have a pretty strong commitment to pro-life issues and pro-growth economic policies. Are these trumped by your personal admiration for Franken and his alleged intellect?

Anyone ... anyone ... Beuhler?

Maybe my question sent Ben Stein into a spell of intense introspection and he's still trying to reconcile his actions with his philosophy. Or maybe he has a policy of one email only to obsessed, loser fans. Either way, the question stands unanswered. And if we wake up on November 5, 2008 to the reality of Senator Al Franken, we have Ben Stein's money to thank for it.

UPDATE: Sisyphus, our go-to-guy on Barbara Bosson news, chimes in:

I can explain how Barbara Bosson could come up with a grand -- she was married to Stephen Bochco (producer of Hill Street Blues, LA Law, NYPD Blues etc.) for many years. She is a (very) slightly more talented Laurie David.


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