Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark may have violated federal election laws by discussing his presidential campaign during recent paid appearances, according to campaign finance experts.
Clark, a newcomer to presidential politics, touted his candidacy during paid appearances at DePauw University in Indiana and other campuses after he entered the presidential race on Sept. 17. Under the laws governing the financing of presidential campaigns, candidates cannot be paid by corporations, labor unions, individuals or even universities for campaign-related events. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) considers such paid political appearances akin to a financial contribution to a candidate.
Clark is getting paid as much as $30,000 for speeches, according to people familiar with his arrangement. He has two more scheduled for next week.
Clark, like any other candidate, would likely be permitted to deliver the paid speeches only if they did not "expressly" cover his campaign or his political opponents, the experts said.
But in his speeches, Clark has talked about his campaign positions and criticized President Bush's policies. At DePauw, during a question-and-answer session after the speech, Clark "absolutely" covered his political views on everything from education to the economy, said Ken Bode, a visiting professor of journalism who moderated the session.
Larry Noble, a former FEC general counsel who heads the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, said Clark's speeches are "problematic" because "the insertion of campaign-related items into his speech can turn it into a campaign speech." If so, the paid appearances would amount to "illegal contributions," Noble said.
"If somebody is going to get involved in a presidential campaign, they need to know the rules," Noble said.
William Oldaker, Clark's general counsel, said the retired general did not run afoul of FEC laws because Clark "is not attempting through those speeches to specifically . . . influence his election."
Oldaker said Clark only "incidentally" mentioned his candidacy in the speeches, and, therefore, the purpose of his appearances had nothing to do with his presidential campaign.
But Don Simon of Common Cause, a campaign finance watchdog group, said, "It's potentially a real problem if he used these speeches in any way to even refer to his campaign." Simon said the FEC should investigate whether Clark crossed the line by talking too much about his campaign, even if that wasn't the candidate's intent. Simon said the FEC would look at the "totality" of Clark's appearances to determine if he violated any laws.
Clark has been paid for speeches at DePauw, the University of Iowa and Midwestern State University. If the FEC reviews the matter, it would look at how much of each appearance was campaign-related, according to Noble and Simon.
Clark's appearance on Sept. 23 at DePauw appears most problematic for the candidate.
Throughout his speech to the DePauw audience, some of whom waved "Draft Clark" signs they were handed on the way in, Clark blasted Bush's Iraq policy and outlined how he would handle foreign affairs differently. During the Q&A that followed, Clark talked in detail about his qualifications and ideas for the presidency.
Ken Gross, the former head of enforcement at the FEC, said most candidates "shut down speaking" because "it just creates too many problems for them." In 1999, Republican Elizabeth Dole, who was exploring a run for the presidency but was not officially a candidate, came under fire for allowing corporations to pay for her speeches. At the time, her spokesman said Dole would quit delivering paid speeches once she was officially running. Clark is officially running.
Gross said Clark would "be open to investigation," but it is not clear what the FEC would do because there is "no entirely bright line" that indicates when a paid appearance becomes a political one.
The FEC dealt with a similar case in 1992, when Republican candidate David Duke requested permission to allow Vanderbilt University to pay him an honorarium and cover his travel expenses for a speech on affirmative action.
In an advisory opinion, which reflects the view of the FEC at the time, the commission said if Duke discussed his campaign or the "qualifications of another presidential candidate, either during the speech or during any question and answer period [it] will change the character of the appearance to one that is for the purpose of influencing a federal election."
Brad Litchfield, who helped draft the 1992 FEC advisory opinion as head of that department, is now working for the Clark campaign.
2003 WORLD SERIES(like I said it would be all along)
Clark's campaign is violently disorganized right now - the Draft Clark web movement, which has provided most of his funding, has been ostracized from any real power in the campaign, which is being taken over by the same team that ran the flaccid Gore campaign in 2000, and the webheads are rebelling. Clark has little control over the campaign itself, and by the next debate excuses like "I've only been in politics for a few weeks" aren't going to cut it any more.
By all accounts, Clark is exceptionally intelligent. It'll be interesting to see if he can take the reigns of his campaign or if it sputters.
How in the world did time travel come up in one of his speeches/interviews?
"When this bogus term alternative rock was being thrown at every '70s retro rehash folk group, we were challenging people to new sonic ideas. If some little snotty anarchist with an Apple Mac and an attitude thinks he invented dance music and the big rock group is coming into his territory, [that's] ridiculous." - Bono, 1997
Originally posted by Big BadHow in the world did time travel come up in one of his speeches/interviews?
Here's the story from Wired. The fact that it was discussed makes sense, even if his conclusion is...different:
Clark Campaigns at Light Speed By Brian McWilliams 02:00 AM Sep. 30, 2003 PT
NEW CASTLE, New Hampshire -- Wesley Clark: Rhodes scholar, four-star general, NATO commander, futurist?
During a whirlwind campaign swing Saturday through New Hampshire, Clark, the newest Democratic presidential candidate, gave supporters one of the first glimpses into his views on technology.
"We need a vision of how we're going to move humanity ahead, and then we need to harness science to do it," Clark told a group of about 50 people in New Castle attending a house party -- a tradition in New Hampshire presidential politics that enables well-connected voters to get an up-close look at candidates.
Then the 58-year-old Arkansas native, who retired from the military three years ago, dropped something of a bombshell on the gathering.
"I still believe in e=mc˛, but I can't believe that in all of human history, we'll never ever be able to go beyond the speed of light to reach where we want to go," said Clark. "I happen to believe that mankind can do it.
"I've argued with physicists about it, I've argued with best friends about it. I just have to believe it. It's my only faith-based initiative." Clark's comment prompted laughter and applause from the gathering.
Gary Melnick, a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said Clark's faith in the possibility of faster-than-light, or FTL, travel was "probably based more on his imagination than on physics."
While Clark's belief may stem from his knowledge of sophisticated military projects, there's no evidence to suggest that humans can exceed the speed of light, said Melnick. In fact, considerable evidence posits that FTL travel is impossible, he said.
"Even if Clark becomes president, I doubt it would be within his powers to repeal the powers of physics," said Melnick, whose research has focused on interstellar clouds and the formation of stars and planets.
Einstein's theory of special relativity says that time slows down as an object approaches the speed of light. Some scientists say that FTL travel therefore implies time travel, or being able to travel to the future or the past.
Clark's comment about FTL travel came at the end of a long answer to a question about his views of NASA and the U.S. space program. Clark said he supports the agency and believes "America needs a dream and a space program."
But Clark said the nation must prioritize its technological goals and take a pragmatic approach to focusing its scientific resources and talent.
"Some goals may take a lifetime to reach," he said. "We need to set those goals now. We need to rededicate ourselves to science, engineering and technology in this country."
Clark used his visit to New Hampshire -- which will hold the nation's first primary election in January -- to demonstrate that he hasn't forgotten the cyberspace activists who cajoled him into running in the first place, as well as to introduce voters to his views on a range of subjects.
"You have changed American politics, with the power of the Internet, modern communications and committed people who care," Clark told a handful of supporters Saturday at the Draft Clark movement's New Hampshire headquarters in Dover.
At the brief meeting prior to a noisy noontime rally on the steps of Dover's City Hall, Clark met some of the New England organizers of the Internet-based movement for the first time. Those are the supporters who had worked for the past six months to convince the former general to seek the Democratic nomination.
Clark's visit to the humble office -- the first opened by the nationwide draft movement-- came just 10 days after his decision to enter the race, and amid reports that some members of the draft have felt cast aside as Clark's official campaign swings into full gear under the control of seasoned political organizers, many with connections to former President Clinton.
But Dover resident Susan Putney, one of the four founders of the Draft Clark movement, said she had no hurt feelings. According to Putney, organizers of the draft have offered to stay on, or to turn over their infrastructure to Clark's official Little Rock, Arkansas-based campaign, whichever the campaign chooses.
"They're the professionals," Putney said. "I'm just a business person, I'm not a politico. We got him to this point, and we'll let the best team possible field it to carry him through."
At this early stage of his campaign, it was obvious that Clark sometimes still leans heavily on the Internet-savvy volunteers who convinced him to run.
The rally in Dover, which was attended by around 300 people, was first publicized on the New Hampshire Draft Clark (now renamed New Hampshire for Clark/04) website and drew supporters from all over New England. The audio engineer who donated his services for the rally's public-address system said he heard about Clark's visit from the site. Even the placards waved by supporters were printed up by the movement and bore the words "Draft Clark 2004."
During Clark's last visit to New Hampshire on May 12, Putney presented him with a stack of 1,000 letters collected through the Internet and urging him to run.
But did the Internet draft really make Clark run, or would the ambitious former NATO commander have thrown his hat into the ring anyway?
"No question this draft movement was what convinced him to get into the race," said George Bruno, a former Democratic National Committee member and personal friend of Clark's. "They persuaded him. We've never seen anything like this in politics before."
2003 WORLD SERIES(like I said it would be all along)
Grimis: I doubt it is just "incomptence". Another thread in this forum said Clinton is no longer in control of the party. Well, Clark appears to be the Clinton's boy. Clark has ex-Clinton people on his campaign staff, alot of them. He and Hillary are "solidly" behind him. They seem to have demonstrated a great deal of ability in being creative when generating funds and can claim honest mistakes later with a straight face. Maybe Clak will be heading to a Bhuddist temple near you soon.
Just for those interested, Chris Lehane - the guy who brilliantly put John Kerry ahead of Howard Dean when he was Kerry's campaign manager and then was a key figure in defeating the recall vote in California and keeping Gray Davis in office - has joined the Clark campaign squad. So clearly, from this point in, it's all hosannas and rosewater for the general.
The Comment period for the FEC's proposed blog restrictions ends on June 3rd. This would be a good time for everybody to submit their comments to the FEC(and for that matter their Congressman and Senator) in opposition to these draconian restrictions.