I was called recently and asked about Whitaker Hagenow, & Gustoff LLP running “political” ads on WHO Radio. The person (who shall remain nameless since this was off the record) asked me if this was illegal. This person was trying to sell a story, I assume, in order to give Matt Whitaker some bad press.
I told her that I haven’t heard the commercials, but I doubted it was illegal. Political speech by a company on its face, including a law firm, has been affirmed by the Supreme Court. There could be an allegation made that Matt Whitaker’s campaign is coordinating with the law firm that would supposedly be in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act since corporations (including Limited Liability Partnerships) are not allowed to contribute to campaigns (though they can form PACs).
Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican on Friday cautioned Whitaker about such ads as Mike Whalen had complaints filed against him due to an ad his restaurant, The Iowa Machine Shed, ran during his 2006 run for Congress. Whalen was acquitted.
Here are transcripts of two of the ads that are running on not only WHO Radio, but all Clear Channel stations in the area.
The first one is a basic ad:
Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff IS A LAW FIRM ROOTED IN TRADITIONAL VALUES WITH LAWYERS Who CAN help solve YOUR legal problems, protect the fruits of your labor, and preserve your legacy for the next generation. Call Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff AT 515.284.5001.
Then they are running feature ads that highlights their clients, one feature ad that has been running is for their work with the Iowa Firearms Coalition.
Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff understand the challenges hard-working, Law-Abiding, successful people face today. They are proud to represent the Iowa Firearms Coalition and the right to bear arms. Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff… defending american freedom. Call 515.284.5001
Starting today they are running an ad featuring their work with Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education:
Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff LAW FIRM understandS the DIFFICULT CHOICES parents face to educate their children. they’re proud to support the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education fighting for parental rights and school choice. Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff 515.284.5001
Bill Gustoff, one of the partners with Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff, told Caffeinated Thoughts Friday evening that he is the one who came up with the idea and worked with Clear Channel to develop the ads. He said that the law firm has been up front about their conservative stance and the ads are meant to cater to potential conservative clients. He said Robinson never bothered to call him, and since there are other partners in the firm they can’t stop marketing themselves just because Whitaker is running for U.S. Senate. It was simply a business decision. Gustoff said, “Matt Whitaker, Chris Hagenow, and anybody handling media issues for the Whitaker for Senate campaign was not involved.”
“Anyone who knows us knows that we are willing to stick our heads up on conservative issues, and that we have taken plenty of arrows for doing so,” Gustoff added.
Anyway I didn’t run with the story when pitched because I didn’t think there was anything there. Gustoff’s phone call to me confirms that. Considering the law firm specializes in free speech and election law cases I would imagine that they are making sure they are following the letter of the law.
Could there be some benefit to Matt Whitaker? I suppose, but that’s only assuming that you average listener to WHO Radio and other Clear Channel stations will automatically link Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff LLP with Matt Whitaker. My guess is that most won’t. Those who do will probably already know their conservative street cred.
Matt Whitaker’s law firm is running ads to which I say, “so what?”
Update: it is worth noting tha Bill Gustoff is listed as the treasurer for Whitaker for US Senate. Go here and search for Matt Whitaker.
2nd Update: Bill’s statement re. him being treasurer for the campaign:
Federal election law requires every federal campaign to have a treasurer who is not the candidate. I was honored that Matt Whitaker asked me to serve in that role from the outset, largely because it speaks of his trust in my integrity. My role as treasurer is nonpolitical and consists of collecting and depositing donations, paying the bills, and filing the required reports with the FEC.