Jim Webb digging a deeper hole with defense of PAC spending

2016So the story isn’t that former U.S. Sen. Jim Webb overpaid family members for questionable services using PAC funds. It’s that the media isn’t telling the whole story.

“Adding up numbers across several years for a sensational headline doesn’t tell the story. We’re happy to be fully transparent on this for journalists interested in the whole story.”

That’s from a statement from Webb’s Born Fighting PAC in response to media reports based on finance disclosures by the PAC showing more than $90,000 in payments for services provided by Webb’s wife and daughter.

The PAC defended the payments as “well within the law,” which wasn’t necessarily the issue raised by the media reporting on the payments. Rather, the issue raised in the reporting is the amount of money that the PAC paid for the work done, and the fact that the PAC was paying out money to Webb family members while not meeting its mission of supporting candidates who support economic fairness and defense issues backed by Webb, who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate and is now exploring a run for the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination.

The finance disclosures showed what appear to be legitimate sums of money earmarked for professional web-design services to two private companies, one paid $3,500 to design a site for the PAC and the second paid $10,000 to undertake a redesign.

Full disclosure: The author of this piece is a professional web designer, and as such, it is the judgment here that while those figures for professional design services may be a little high, they are also certainly within reason given what the market for web-design services in large metropolitan areas tends to offer.

The amounts for the services provided by Hong Le Webb, the former senator’s wife, and Amy Webb, his daughter, on the other hand, seem extravagant, considering the nature of the services offered. According to the statement from the PAC, Hong Le Webb “was compensated for her activities relating to various aspects of multiple website designs from the period February through September 2014, including vetting design consultants, negotiating contracts and content management.”

Amy Webb, meanwhile, “has been involved in the administration, management and design of Jim Webb’s websites for many years, including the management of JamesWebb.com since 2001. She has provided the same services to the Born Fighting PAC since 2009, including the handling of FEC compliance matters since 2013.”

What we’re being told here is that websites that cost $13,500 to build also somehow cost $90,000+ to manage.

Taking a look at the sites, and their limited content, that’s a stretch

But that’s not to suggest that the Webbs or the Born Fighting PAC did anything illegal. It’s not illegal to overspend severely for services. It may not show political savvy, particularly on the part of a candidate for the White House running on a platform of economic fairness ostensibly sticking up for the little guy in making that his central issue, but it’s not illegal.

The bigger issue is that Webb, as a senator, made the case well that the wealthy elites are manipulating the political system to leverage laws and public dollars to further enrich themselves at the expense of middle-class taxpayers.

And what do we have here with this story about how Webb’s PAC spends its money?

Oh, yeah, the media making a big deal about nothing.

– Column by Chris Graham

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