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Citizens United Versus DeFazio

Congressman Peter DeFazio’s GOP challenger, Art Robinson, is back at it this election with some help from a few deep-pocketed, out-of-state friends. A spread of just under 11 percent kept DeFazio in Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District in the 2010 election. Now the man behind Citizens United is putting money into the effort to beat the populist Democratic congressman.

Conservative litigator James Bopp Jr.’s Republican Super PAC Inc. (RSPAC) purchased $139,985 in advertising on local television stations KVAL (CBS), KEZI (ABC), KMTR (NBC) and KLSR (Fox) between Oct. 3 and Oct. 12, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) public data records. Bopp formed the PAC with Republican National Committee members Solomon Yue of Oregon and Roger Villere of Louisiana.

In the world of campaign finance, Bopp Jr.’s shadow stretches farther than most; he is the legal mind behind Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. Bopp is the treasurer and general counsel to RSPAC.

Art Robinson is thus far the only candidate anywhere to receive funds from RSPAC, which is 92 percent (about $239,000) funded by a single donor — Bob Mercer — co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies and the same man who spent nearly $600,000 with the Concerned Taxpayers of America (CTA) to fund Robinson’s 2010 effort.

“Right now it’s the Wild West of campaign finance,” DeFazio said in a recent interview. “This is an attempt by the wealthiest, most powerful special interests in this country — individuals and major corporations, to buy our country — it’s unprecedented.”

DeFazio has received PAC money too, though from very different sources. According to FEC records, through June of this year 47 percent of his campaign funding came from PACs such as United Transportation Union PAC ($5,000) and American Council of Engineering Companies PAC ($5,000).

It remains to be seen whether the television ads will make a difference in the race for the House seat this November, but DeFazio says this issue is much bigger than any single race: “People need to get angry and send a message to Wall Street, send a message to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, send a message to the Supreme Court — that our country is not for sale. We’re not going to let you have it. We’re going to win this election and then we’re going to start to fix the unbelievable damage you’ve done.” — Shelley Deadmond and Camilla Mortensen