Sometimes the hardest part is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Meanwhile, Jonathan Martin tries to explain the latest weirdness surrounding the U.S. Senate campaign of Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR4).
A certain level of murkiness has become the rule when it comes to campaign finance in a post-Citizens United world. But even by this standard, a group called Right Solutions Partners LLC is remarkable for its opacity.
Representative Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican running for the Senate, disbursed over $131,000 to Right Solutions Partners in March for “fund-raising consulting” and an additional $161,000 to it in August for the same purpose. A smaller third disbursement brought the total to $322,963.
But here’s the catch: It’s not clear that such an entity actually exists. It has no presence on the Internet, it appears that no other campaign is paying it this year, and it has no office at the Washington address listed on the articles of organization filed with the city last year.
As scandals go, this isn’t much to work with. Barring some evidence of illegality, the sense of scandal will blow away on the first light breeze that starts to shape this up as just another Beltway maneuver. But lacking that puff from the winds of change, the apparent scandal here would have something to do with Rep. Cotton once again affirming his appearance of plain stupidity.
Then again, stupidity might be a (ha!) “Natural State” virtue; polling shows Cotton leads his race against incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D).
David M. Drucker of The Washington Examiner hopes to defuse the questions with blithe answers:
Recent media reports suggested that Cotton might have been paying a nonexistent firm for services described as “fundraising consulting” on Federal Election Committee reports. Except, Cotton’s national fundraiser, Erika Sather, and her firm, Right Solutions Partners, LLC, do exist, and have consulted for multiple well-known Republicans.
“We have a contract with Erika Sather to pay Right Solutions,” Cotton campaign spokesman David Ray told the Washington Examiner. “When she sends us an invoice, it’s payable to Right Solutions, LLC.”
Her past clients include Republican Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa. She previously worked for the Club for Growth, in the group’s finance department.
The thing is that Drucker’s explanation is incomplete. Steve Benen of msnbc asks the obvious question:
Why didn’t Team Cotton answer the question about the arrangement when the New York Times first posed it?
Lex parsimonae would suggest that the reason is Drucker’s willful participation in a political setup. Consider: A question arises, the campaign refuses to answer, instead calling a newspaper staffed with conservative lap dogs, and then we are treated to a badly-written article trying to riducle the question.
Two points from Drucker’s article:
• Right Solutions Partners is not the only LLC registered to Sather.
• Although she does not operate under any other name besides Right Solutions, she prefers to represent herself by the campaign she is working on, rather than the name of her firm, which is not uncommon among fundraising consultants.
Perhaps Mr. Drucker should be a little more careful next time. That is to say, sure, we all trip over words every once in a while, but it stands out a little more when words are your trade. As it is, Mr. Drucker suggests that Ms. Sather misrepresents her other firms by running them under the Right Solutions banner.
And, overall, Drucker’s effort on Cotton’s behalf only leaves us wondering if Erika Sather is the next Brett O’Donnell, whose methods in support of Republicans constantly draw scrutiny for trying to reshape the definitions separating official business and campaign work.
Martin, Jonathan. “Paying $323,000 to a Group That May Not Exist”. The New York Times. 21 October 2014.
Benen, Steve. “Cotton’s latest whopper deals with student loans”. msnbc. 15 October 2014.
—————. “Tom Cotton’s mysterious friends”. msnbc. 22 October 2014.
Drucker, David M. “Counter to media reports, Tom Cotton’s fundraiser exists”. The Washington Examiner. 21 October 2014.
Singer, Paul. “Lawmakers hire GOP debate expert with taxpayer money”. USA Today. 23 July 2013.