Secretive Nonprofit Defends Rick Perry With Online Campaign

Image: Secretive Nonprofit Defends Rick Perry With Online Campaign (Ashley Landis/EPA/Landov)

Friday, 29 Aug 2014 10:39 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Embattled Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a shadowy nonprofit group in his corner that had previously only been known for its campaign to oust Democrats in New York elections.

The secretive Virginia-based group Common Sense Principles, which keeps its wealthy donors under wraps, has launched an online campaign with a revamped website to help defend Perry following his indictment in Texas on abuse of power charges, The Texas Tribune reported.

The website has a homepage with a blaring headline that says, “What is going on in Texas?” and also features a 25-second YouTube video of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg acting in a bizarre and confrontational manner during her drunken driving arrest last year.

Story continues below video.


After Lehmberg served three weeks in jail, Perry threatened to veto state funds to the public integrity unit of the Travis County DA's office unless Lehmberg stepped down from her position, saying that she had lost "the public's confidence."

When she refused to quit, he pulled the $7.5 million in state funding for the anti-corruption unit. But now Perry has been charged with exceeding his office’s veto authority and attempting to coerce a public servant.

The governor, a potential GOP presidential nominee in 2016, says the felony counts are without merit and politically motivated.

The Common Sense Principles website includes links to articles attacking the charges while urging its readers to provide their names and email addresses to "sign up for updates." There’s also a disclaimer at the bottom of the page saying "Paid for by Common Sense Principles."

The group has been described as "sketchy" by the New York Daily News and "shadowy" by NYStateofPolitics.com because it goes to great depths to keep the names of its donors hidden.

The group, which goes by Common Sense in its 501(4) nonprofit tax filings, has previously provided the phone number of HoltzmanVogelJosefiak, a Virginia-based law firm, as its contact in public filings. the Tribune said.

The newspaper also noted that public records list the group’s president as Chris LaCivita, a Virginia political strategist who was largely known as a political consultant for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.

Common Sense Principles first surfaced in 2010 when it attacked Democrats in New York.

The group spent $2.5 million during that campaign and $1 million fighting Democratic Senate candidates in 2012, the Tribune said, adding that the GOP has denied working with the organization.

Common Sense was targeted last year by the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, which was created by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The commission, however, was shut down in March by Cuomo, leading to allegations that he was attempting to cover up its findings on issues and groups linked to his office.

In a report last year, the commission said Common Sense Principles was "very interested in New York politics" and operated in "its shadows," the Tribune reported.

"The story of one group with the nom de guerre of ‘Common Sense Principles’ illustrates just how difficult it is to track down the sources of the cash used to influence our elections," the commission wrote."

"So who pays for Common Sense’s political spending in New York? Despite issuing a number of subpoenas and conducting several interviews, the commission still cannot say," the report reads. "This daisy chain of out-of-state corporations and 'ghost companies' appears to exist for one reason: to hide the source of money used to fund negative advertising and influence our local elections."

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