Thursday, September 6, 2012

'Crusading' legal eagle filches French film to raise cash for sketchy PAC


EaglesPAC treasurer, attorney Dan Backer scrubs website after French director blasts him for using film as "propaganda weapon to raise money"; Public Integrity reporter who covers PACs ignores story but then uses Backer as source for article attacking Obama; Backer essentially blames alleged "client" for filching French film, but Statement of Organization filed with FEC only mentions his name...

"The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group is part of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based organization that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable," according to its website. "The Reporting Group applies the techniques of journalism to make government more transparent." (

In March of 2012, Keenan Steiner applied the techniques of journalism to write a story called "Crusading lawyer takes aim at contribution limits" about Dan Backer, the Principal Attorney at DB Capitol Strategies," who has been pushing the FEC to ease a host of campaign finance rules." Steiner's article focused on "Backer's latest target: the ceiling on how much money a person can give candidates for federal office in one election cycle, which currently stands at $46,200." (

"Backer, who already forced the FEC to ease limits on creating super PACs after taking the agency to court last year, says he's not interested in lifting the limits on how much individuals can to each candidate -- $2,500 per election, or $5,000 during the course of a two year cycle," Steiner reported. "But he and his associates say the $46,200 overall cap is preventing their client, Alabama mining company executive Shaun McCutcheon, from fulfilling his wish to contribute upwards of $50,000 to more than two dozen GOP candidates, all of them challengers except for Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Martha Roby, R-Ala. In an affidavit that accompanied the FEC petition, McCutcheon said he wants to contribute at least $51,900 this cycle and $60,000 next cycle. Backer and his associates argue that the FEC is infringing on McCutcheon's free speech rights 'to speak and to associate with every candidate of his choosing.'"

Steiner's article appears to be mostly based on "exclusive" quotes he obtained from Backer and his firm, contains nary a contrary word, and reads like a press release for the "crusading lawyer."

Perhaps if Steiner truly "applie[d] the techniques of journalism to make government more transparent" he might have found some of the potential FEC violations and other irregularities I have uncovered that I will be reporting on over the next few weeks.

According to Dan Backer's online LinkedIn resume (, the George Mason University School of Law graduate has "[b]road leadership experience in developing, and achieving results in organizational strategic planning, member communications and programming, and grassroots advocacy, and his specialties include "PAC treasury & FEC compliance." Backer is also the "author of 'The Strategist', a monthly campaign finance & political law & strategy newsletter to 5000+ Practitioners."

While researching many of the PACs associated with Backer, I ran across a largely undefined one which appeared to be using a short French film to raise money for vague reasons.

"The Gloaming" ( is a short animated French film written by Nicolas Pasquet and directed by three filmmakers who use the moniker NoBrain (, that was released by Sabotage Studio in 2011 ( On June 28, 2012, "The Gloaming" was chosen as "short of the week" by a website which "seek[s] to discover and promote the greatest and most innovative storytellers from around the world." (

"God-like beings have been the focus of many a film, but not many have tackled the subject with the vigor and confidence on show in short animation The Gloaming," El Vez wrote about the 14-minute animated film. "This parable of humanity satirically touches on religion, greed, jealousy, war and evolution (making it an interesting companion piece to Jossie Malis’ Bendito Machine series), with its brief duration seemingly covering the entire history of the universe in its fertile plot."

I contacted the filmmakers by email the other week to find out if they knew their film was being used to collect money by a PAC ( tied to Backer ( : "Hello, I'm a freelance journalist working on a story about American political action committees, and one PAC that I'm probing is called EaglesPAC, and it is using your film 'The Gloaming' to raise money. Do you know why?"

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