Friday, October 20, 2006

Who Is Jim Cardle And Why Does He Want To Defeat Kim Holland? Many Questions, Few Answers

A Special Report By Mike McCarville ~ Who is Texan James B. Cardle and why does the conservative Republican activist want to defeat Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland? And what's the source of the $150,000 spent thus far on television commercials that attack Holland without naming her?
"These ads are not being run by Holland's opponent," Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Thursday. "They come from some organization in Texas with no filings with the Ethics Commission and no information as to who is paying for the ads. The public has a right to know what interests in Texas want Oklahoma to elect a different insurance commissioner. Everyone has a constitutional right to free speech, but we have a right to pull them out of the darkness and into the sunshine of public disclosure."
Edmondson said the commercial is "clearly electioneering and in violation of (the) rules."
UPDATE: As of mid-afternoon Friday, the Texas Secretary of State's office shows Just The Facts America was formed on October 11th, about 36 hours before the attack commercials began to appear in Oklahoma.
The questions about the mysterious Texans have hung on the line like a wet blanket since late last Friday, when Cardle's heretofore-unknown "Just The Facts America" launched a joint Internet-television commercial blitz designed to defeat Holland in the November 7th election. JTFA, as the group is called by its Washington attorney Benjamin L. Ginsberg of Patton Boggs, is located, its initial news release said, at 815A Brazos, #417, Austin. Nothing was known here about Cardle, or JTFA, when the controversy erupted.
That Cardle's a Republican mover-and-shaker and Holland is a Democrat seems way short of being the answer to the basic question of why Cardle and JTFA wants to send her packing and have spent at least $150,000 (the initial tv buy) thus far to try to do it. And forget, The McCarville Report Online is told, that Cardle's association with former Oklahoma U. S. Senator Don Nickles could be the answer. (That's Cardle on the right in the photo above showing Nickles after he spoke to Cardle's Austin Economic Council last year.)
A prominent Republican insider, asked why Cardle is after Holland, replied, "She just pissed off the wrong people." That cryptic response, coupled with no additional information, simply increased TMRO's curiosity and launched us on a six-day search for information.
Research by The McCarville Report Online shows that Cardle is involved in numerous groups and apparently is one of the owners of Texas Insider, a state political online newsletter; he was a founder of its predecessor, Texas Digest. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Austin Economic Council, president of the Texas Free Enterprise Fund, heads the Texas Club for Growth and the Lone Star Foundation, and is president of the Texas Citizens Action Network. He is closely allied with the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, and with President George W. Bush. He is listed as the owner of Cardle Consulting & Development Solutions and has a string of connections to nationally-known Republicans, both operatives and elected officials.
As with many things political, especially involving political attacks where attempts are made to keep the source of the attack funding secret as in this case, accurate information is hard to come by. Two State Capitol reporters in Austin told The McCarville Report Online they've never heard of Just The Facts America, but they are familiar with Cardle. One described Cardle as "a smoke-and-mirrors political guy."
We first tried going directly to Cardle in Austin, sending an email and calling. Two days after our inquiries, we've had no response from him. Next, we went to JTFA attorney Ginsberg, posing several questions about Cardle's interest in an Oklahoma political race, the sources of funding for JTFA, and Cardle's relationship to another prominent Texan. We asked Ginsberg, via email Wednesday afternoon, "1) What is the particular interest of 'Just The Facts America' in the post of insurance commissioner in the State of Oklahoma? In short...why is this entity funding this effort? 2) What entity, entities or individuals have provided funding to 'Just The Facts America' to pay the consultants, website developers, television commercial producers and television stations in this effort? 3) What personal, public service association or business relationship, if any, is there between James B. Cardle and (name redacted by TMRO) of Texas? Is (he) associated in any way with 'Just The Facts America'?" Ginsberg had not responded as of Friday morning.
It is Ginsberg's position, as outlined in a letter sent last Friday to Oklahoma television stations, that JTFA, "a Texas-based membership organization, is devoted to maintaining ethics in government, as well as encouraging officeholders to be honest about their motives and political allegiances." A search of Internet sources for JTFA, however, reveals nothing about the entity or its financial supporters or their motives and political allegiances. In short, JTFA seems to exist only in Oklahoma despite its Austin mailing address; perhaps its registration in Texas is so new it hasn't found its way into public records yet. The logical conclusion is that JTFA was created solely to go after Holland.
Oklahoma City communications expert and host of the weekly KWTV-Channel 9 segment "Your Vote Counts" Scott Mitchell, who distributed JTFA's news release last Friday, told TMRO early this week he knows little about the group and simply is acting as a facilitator, the local contact, and is not an advocate. We asked Mitchell, via email early Thursday morning, "Who is Jim Cardle? Inquiring minds want to know. And what is his interest in the Oklahoma Insurance Department? How much is being spent on the anti-Holland campaign? From what sources is the money coming to fund the effort?" There has been no response.
A source described JTFA as being "just like a chamber of commerce, with members who contribute" and, he added, the way JTFA is structured (apparently as a non-profit entity), there's no requirement that its membership list, or the sums they give, be publicly disclosed.

In researching Cardle's background and connections, several news reports in Texas were found that mention Cardle's association with a Timothy R. "Tim" Phillips, who is president of the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, a conservative business issues advocacy group that, among other issues it addresses, is opposed to congressional pork barrel projects, or "earmark" spending. Earlier this year, Phillips was in Oklahoma City on that subject (he's shown at right in a television commercial announcing his trip to Oklahoma City) and questioned a federal million dollar earmark for a water taxi in Bricktown. AFPF has offices in numerous states, including Oklahoma's office on Avondale Drive in Nichols Hills.
AFPF's Austin office address, 807 Brazos, No. 210, puts it immediately adjacent to Cardle's JTFA, at 815A Brazos, No. 417, leading to speculation the two are somehow connected. Adding to that perception is an April 28th "coalition" letter from Phillips' AFPF signed by numerous politically-involved Texans including Cardle.
To further the speculation, the Oklahoma representative of Phillips' Americans For Prosperity Foundation is Mike Osburn, who managed then-Senator Nickles' Oklahoma City field office and was his political and policy representative across the state. Contacted by TMRO, Osburn flatly denied any knowledge of a connection between AFPF and JTFA: "I did not help arrange for Sen. Nickles to speak to Jim Cardle's group last year or at anytime," Osburn told us. "I don't know who Jim Cardle is nor do I know with what group he is associated." Asked if he had any involvement in the anti-Holland effort, he replied, "I certainly had no role whatsoever with anything anti-Holland and until reading your email I was unaware that there was anything like that (rumor) out there." Osburn said on Wednesday he would forward our email "to AFPF's national office so that they can maybe provide more insight into some of your questions."
UPDATE: Friday afternoon, a spokeswoman for AFPF at its Washington headquarters said that Phillips and Cardle often are allied on conservative issues. Annie Patnaude said Phillips lives in Georgia. She added, "Mr. Cardle has spoken at some Americans for Prosperity-Texas events as a partner in the fight for lower taxes, less spending, and limited government. Our relationship with Mr. Cardle is that of an ally. Mr. Cardle has been asked to speak at AFP-TX events and sign coalition letters as an ally in the fight for more accountable government."
Whether there's a connection between Cardle and Phillips in JTFA is speculation; we tried to contact both men directly without success. Asked if the two are connected, Patnaude said, "not to my knowledge."
Who is Tim Phillips? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on March 4th, under the headline (Jack) Abramoff and (Ralph) Reed Used (Grover) Norquist To Launder E-Lottery Money, that "Abramoff was lobbying for...eLottery Inc against a bill in Congress that would have banned most online betting. First the money was sent by eLottery to Americans for Tax Reform...headed by Grover Norquist, who knew both Reed and Abramoff. Norquist then wrote a check for $150,000 to a group called Faith and Family Alliance of Virginia Beach. Faith and Family Alliance wrote a check for the same amount to Reed's Century Strategies...One of Faith and Family's founders, Tim Phillips, was a vice president for Century Strategies."
Tim Phillips, one GOP consultant who has known him for years says, came out of Virginia GOP politics and was on the staff of a congressman from that state before hooking up with the controversial Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, and eventually winding up in Texas.
A Democratic National Committee website mentioning Phillips carried this story: "Reed received $4.2 million from Abramoff's firm for lobbying in Texas in 2001 and 2002 before registering as a lobbyist, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. In Texas, his efforts to close one tribe's casino were surreptitiously funded by rival tribes. His firm also received $150,000 from Jack Abramoff's client, eLottery, as part of his effort to kill an anti-gambling bill. (The money was used to attack GOP House members who backed the bill.) Reed rallied the religious community against the casinos and met with state lawmakers to kill a bill that would reopen the Tiguas casino (another Abramoff client), according to his e-mails. Tim Phillips, VP of Ralph Reed's Atlanta-based Century Strategies, and Tim Cox, co-owner with Phillips of the political consulting firm New Dominion Strategies, helped create a supposedly 'non-partisan' tax-exempt organization in Virginia called the Faith and Family Alliance. Robin Vanderwall served as the organization's Executive Director. Robin Vanderwall is now cooperating in the Abramoff investigation. Washington Post quotes (Nov. 3) 'Vanderwall is now serving a seven-year prison term after he was convicted of soliciting sex from a minor on the Internet. In telephone interviews and correspondence from state prison, Vanderwall said the nonprofit group, Faith and Family Alliance, was used as a pass-through to fund Abramoff's campaign against an Internet gambling ban and to attack U.S. House candidate Eric I. Cantor in his 2000 primary race.' Money was sent from a client of Abramoff's to Americans for Tax Reform [Grover Norquist's], which kept a portion. The rest was routed to Faith and Family, records show. Vanderwall then made out a check for the identical amount and sent it to the political consulting firm where Phillips is vice president. That firm was founded by former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed, an Abramoff friend. The money was meant to attack conservative Republicans who backed the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, a review of records shows. Four days before Virginia's June 12 GOP primary, the Alliance sent out a mailing attacking congressional candidate Eric I. Cantor to boost the prospects of his opponent State Sen. Stephen H. Martin, who had hired Tim Phillips. Virginia 's Republican attorney general candidate Robert F. McDonnell paid $1,460,133 to Phillips and Cox's firm, New Dominion Strategies. McDonnell also had used Vanderwall as his campaign manager."
So most of the questions about JTFA, its members and thus, the source of the money being poured into the attempt to defeat Holland, remain unanswered. It seems clear that none of those involved want to provide answers.

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