Charles H. Bell and Thomas Hiltachk's (Arnold's former personal lawyer -ed.) law firm banked nearly $65,000 in fees from a California-based political committee funded almost solely by Bob J. Perry that targeted Democrats in 2006. Perry, a major Republican donor, contributed nearly $4.5 million to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that made unsubstantiated but damaging attacks on Kerry three years ago.
The Perry-financed committee in California, the Economic Freedom Fund, continued to spend money this year, mostly on legal expenses tied to an ongoing legal dispute in Indiana over phone calls made to voters in 2006. It lists the Sacramento law office's address as its home and its Web site directs contributions to the firm, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk. In addition, Bell serves as the committee's treasurer.
I highlighted that other bit because it's significant that Perry also financed the major dirty trick of the 2006 election: numerous illegal robocalls to voters in swing districts, pretending to be from Democrats. So the same law firm trying to split California's electoral votes have taken cash from the major Republican dirty tricks operations over the last several years.
It's unclear whether Perry has given to this current power grab. But with his name in the rolodex, it would be absurd to think he won't.
Here's a little more on the law firm, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk:
Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk is one of the most politically involved law firms in the state. According to a news story on its Web site, Bell keeps a life-sized cardboard image of President Bush in his office. Federal records show the firm does legal work for a host of political committees, most with Republican or business ties.
"It comes across as a power grab," said Republican analyst Allan Hoffenblum, who predicted the proposal would likely fail in the Democratic-leaning state. Even Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a lukewarm assessment of the idea.
Here's Digby on the power grab.
They really couldn't be more obvious.
I suspect this is as much mind fuck as anything, and perhaps a simple desire to force Democrats to spend money on something they don't want to spend it on, but you cannot take that for granted. These people have no compunction about cheating. They've shown that. Look what it got us in 2000. And if they succeed again, the press will just laugh and giggle about haircuts and cleavage and tell everyone to get over it. Just like last time. And the time before. And the time before that.
This is about spending money, certainly, but I do think it could backfire by energizing California and national Democrats in a way that they are rarely energized about anything. If we build a broad-based movement around first fighting this dirty trick and then making them pay, they could rue the day they ever put this out. Courage Campaign is raising money to fight this at the grassroots level, with low-dollar, broad-based donations. They've already raised $7,000 from over 250 contributors within less than 24 hours. Let's get to 1,000.
This is something that impacts everyone around the country. A strong people-powered movement in California will resonate everywhere, and this can be the spark that will light that movement. Let's not let the type of tactics we saw with the Swifties predominate. Let's make these thieves pay.
UPDATE: It was a blogger, our own Frank Russo of the California Progress Report who exposed Bell, McAndrews and HIltachk's involvement with the Swiftboaters. If you want to see more digging like this, more people-powered exposure of these dirty tricksters, give to the Courage Campaign fund to stop this power grab in its tracks.