Top McCain Lawyer Criticizes Lack Of Disclosure In Rove's WSJ Columns

Trevor PotterThe top lawyer for John McCain's presidential campaigns is the latest to criticize Karl Rove for failing to disclose his ties to political organizations raising hundreds of millions of dollars to defeat President Obama and other Democratic candidates in his Wall Street Journal columns about the election.

Trevor Potter, who served as general counsel to McCain's 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns, is also a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and the founding president and general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit focused on campaign finance issues. 

Media Matters caught up with Potter at an event Wednesday night in New York City where he was among four panelists who debated the need for regulation of super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections. Potter has recently garnered public attention for his regular appearances to discuss super PAC issues on The Colbert Report.

Asked about Rove's failure to disclose his connection to American Crossroads -- a super PAC Rove helped found and for which he raises money -- in his columns for The Wall Street Journal on the presidential campaign, Potter stated: “It seems to me if you're writing about politics and you're head of a major political organization that has a side in the election, you would expect that to be disclosed.”

Even as he writes regular columns on the 2012 election for the Journal, Rove serves as what Vanity Fair calls “the defacto leader of the Republican Party.” As the co-founder of American Crossroads and its related organization Crossroads GPS, Rove has helped to assemble a massive war chest to run attack ads against Democrats this fall -- an obvious conflict of interest.

While Rove occasionally (but not consistently) discloses his connection to the political organizations in his columns, the description of Rove on the website and with each print column states only that “Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.” The ties are also absent from the 171-word bio of Rove that is occasionally appended to his columns on the Wall Street Journal website. 

Asked to elaborate on why Rove and the Journal should disclose his connection, Potter added:

Because as the Supreme Court said in an only slightly different context in Citizens United, viewers, readers, listeners, judge what they hear, to some extent based on context, and who the speaker is explains to them where they're coming from and you lose that if it's just a name or they think they're an outside commentator without a stake in the issue.

Potter is just the latest critic to take Rove to task for failing to disclose his super PAC link in his Journal columns.

A group of leading editorial page editors from some of America's top newspapers called the Journal's failure to disclose Rove's ties to his political organizations “negligent” and such disclosure “essential” in comments to Media Matters last month.

Meanwhile, Alan Murray, the deputy managing editor and executive editor for the WSJ online, said in an interview with Rove on the website that the columnist is a “prime mover” in the election through his super PAC, indicating that the paper's top editors are well aware of the magnitude of his role.