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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Alleged ACU Pay to Play Scheme

The weekend began with this shocking revelation.

The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s support in a bitter legislative dispute, then the
group’s chairman flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.

For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)”

The conservative group’s remarkable demand — black-and-white proof of the longtime Washington practice known as “pay for play” — was contained in a private letter to FedEx , which was provided to POLITICO.

(Here's the letter)
It should be noted that all of these are still allegations however the letter is pretty clear and indefensible.

The whole thing started over a law currently working its way through Congress that would have given Fedex' union more power. In the letter, the ACU (American Conservative Union) first tells the folks at Fedex that they agree with their position, and given their conservative anti union, that seems natural. The ACU then listed a series of things they would do for Fedex. Finally, the ACU listed the costs they expected to pay for their services.

Fedex never responded and two weeks later the ACU switched positions and sided with Fedex' main rival UPS. The details of the policy involved are bland and ultimately mostly important to Fedex and UPS. The allegations are as shocking as they are troubling.

Most people probably haven't heard of the ACU, however they are the main sponsor of the year Conservative Political Action Conference. CPAC is the biggest, and most important, gathering of conservatives. If they're corrupt, that is a shocking blow to the conservative movement. Among the signatories of the second letter is Grover Norquist, founder of Americans for Tax Reform. Norquist is one of the most influential fiscal conservatives in the country. It's unclear if Norquist knew about the earlier offer by the ACU to Fedex though he's at least tainted by association now. (Norquist is on the board of the ACU)

This is yet another example that politics is a lot less a battle of policies and ideas, and much more a battle between those on the inside and the rest of us. The ACU appears to represent those with connection, on the inside, than those who believe in small government. It's not only unacceptable but despicable and frankly, no one should attend CPAC if ACU is associated with it in the future. It goes without saying that the group must not be supported or acknowledged any longer in any way.

Here is the statement from the ACU. Their claim is that it David Keene, its chairman, was acting on his own in the second letter to UPS even though ACU's letterhead, along with letter head from several other organizations, is on the letter.

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