You are hereColumbus Examiner: Ohio activist lawyer takes on U.S. Chamber, American Crossroads for alleged money laundering

Columbus Examiner: Ohio activist lawyer takes on U.S. Chamber, American Crossroads for alleged money laundering


August 9, 2010- One progressive Ohio lawyer and political activist, who is no stranger to launching attacks against players who are well connected to national and state political infrastructures and funded by individuals and corporations who have a seemingly inexhaustible check book, has stepped up to the plate again. His claim this time is that the U.S Chamber of Commerce (USCC) and American Crossroads (AC), a separate but politically sympathetic group run by Republican strategist Karl Rove, are engaged in money laundering gambits.

In a report posted Monday by Rebecca Abrahams at The Huffington Post, an online Web site generally friendly to left-of-center issues and candidates, Bob Fitrakis, a professor of political science at Columbus State Community College who previously has been a candidate for elected public office in Ohio on the Green Party ticket, sent letters asking attorneys for USCC and AC to "retain all documents, emails, accounting records and other records" associated with his allegation that the groups laundered illegal campaign contributions from large corporations.

"We are planning on notifying the groups [as part of our] investigation and we're requesting that they hold all those documents pertaining to what we believe is an illegal money laundering scheme," he told Abrahams.

The USCC, which this election year is fanning the narrative that businesses are not hiring because of their concern about tax uncertainty at the hands of President Barack Obama, has in the past played the role of so-called attack dog for big business.

Fitrakis told Abrahams that it is known that the USCC "directly solicited various major donors - primarily people connected with transnational corporations" in an effort to create an "unbalanced right-wing court."

A former candidate for governor of Ohio, Fitrakis, said big business used then-Ohio Governor Bob Taft in 2002, who left office under a cloud of discredit that put him in a position of pleading guilty to multiple misdemeanor charges of accepting gifts from lobbyists.

An attorney who specializes in election fraud, Fitrakis said it is well known that politicians are solicited and in some cases "the Chamber twists the arms of people but sometimes they don't have to do that to get these anonymous donations." Once the donations are made, "they kind of steer them all to one organization and they move them around to targeted politicians."         

Fitrakis says the real goal is to control the Ohio Supreme Court, which up until this year, when Gov. Strickland appointed Democratic Judge Eric Brown to it to replace Republican Chief Justice Thomas Moyer when he died suddenly, has been exclusively Republican.

Fitrakis, from the Huffington Post: "What they really want to do is control the Supreme Court here in Ohio as they successfully did in Texas because that allows them to do a variety of things. They can promise things like pro-corporate decisions because they know if they eliminate the entire opposition, which is what they did in Ohio. They took a moderate court in the '90s which was 4-3 Republican to Democrat [sic] and with a couple of Republicans, at least one, having a very moderate, slim vote and they were able to essentially stack the entire court with Republicans that all lean strongly towards corporations. And if you don't really have any balance on the court itself none of the other judges, if they're all from one party and one mindset are all pro-corporate, you know those people aren't going to raise the ethical issues in private or in public and that's what you want - clearly judges that have a multi-national corporate perspective that know they've been elected by essentially illegal, anonymous money laundering schemes."

Fitrakis makes a link between the USCC and Ohio's 2004 presidential election. The USCC, Fitrakis says, is now "directly linked to American Crossroads" and its 501c4 spinoff, American Crossroads GPS.

Fitrakis on how to hide money [from the Huffington Post]: "They're creating something where they can hide who's really behind the curtain and the job of course, is to rip that curtain back and when you do, it's usually the same people - large companies, corporations that want the entire economy deregulated and that's why in fact you create the 501c4 and eventually they'll create a 501c3. Because really all you have to do is adjourn the meeting, the non-profit meets and we have a long tradition of anonymous donations and then the 501c4 meets and it can do a little more in advocacy but it's not a 527. But the key factor is that the donations can be anonymous. It's a great business without transparency, without being accountable."

Among Fitrakis' efforts in the political arena, he served on the legal team that sued the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for creating a front group called Citizens For A Strong Ohio, the report said. The organization solicited corporations for funding by promising them anonymity and used those funds to run attack ads against Ohio Supreme Court Justice Alice Resnick, in violation of Ohio's campaign finance laws. Moreover, the post noted that in 2003 the Ohio Elections Commission and three courts ruled that the Chamber had to reveal the names of campaign ad backers.

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