Moreland Lawyers Respond to Motion to Quash Subpoena

Moreland Lawyers Respond to Motion to Quash Subpoena

Moreland Lawyers Respond to Motion to Quash Subpoena
September 25, 2014

Lawyers for the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption filed papers today against the motion to quash a subpoena of Daniel Odescalchi, the principal of a public relations firm that handled the website of Common Sense Principles.

The commission has been looking into Common Sense’s dealings in 2010 and 2012 legislative races in New York. Moreland and its lawyers contend that Common Sense spent millions of dollars to affect the outcomes of those races.

The crux of the state’s argument is that Common Sense is involved with “dark money,” or election spending that is not disclosed in federal and state campaign filings.

Lawyers for Moreland allege that Common Sense spent more dark money during the 2010 and 2012 elections than any other entity in the state. According to the filings, Common Sense raised $2.62 million from unknown sources in 2010 and spent $2.54 million, primarily to run attack ads against a group of Democratic state senators. The group then raised no funds and spent just $34,735 in 2011 before raising $785,929 in 2012 and spending $865,413, the filings state.

Lawyers for Odescalchi and his firm Strategic Advantage International first filed a motion to quash a subpoena to testify before Moreland in December of last year.

The commission’s lawyers responded by saying that looking into the nature of Common Sense’s involvement in election-related activity funding is within the scope of Moreland’s investigative authority.

In its Thursday filing, lawyers for Moreland contend its authority is not limited to investigating wrongdoing or violations of laws already on the books; rather, it’s to understand how the legal and regulatory regime governing corruption and the like works and can be improved. A response is due by Feb. 27.

Common Sense has remained largely shrouded in secrecy, which the commission aims to peel away with its investigation. The website lists a set of state politicians that it accuses of doing wrong and cites Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” pamphlet as inspiration for its advocacy for the beliefs in smaller government, fiscal responsibility and free societies.

According to public records, the group is a Virginia-based non-profit, and its federal tax filings indicate it is a social welfare organization founded in 2010, court filings state.

In 2013, Common Sense filed a semi-annual report with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics contending it is a lobbying entity, not a campaign vehicle, according to the filings.

Previous attempts to subpoena people with ties to Common Sense led out of the state, and thus out of the commission’s jurisdiction. But the commission was eventually able to trace 2012 attack mailers to a Staten Island-based company that referred the commission to a Florida-based “ghost company.”

The Common Sense website was eventually found to be registered to Strategic Advantage International, which received payments from New York political campaign committees from 2006 through 2013, the filings show. That led to the subpoenas commission of Odescalchi.

A spokeswoman for the Moreland Commission declined to comment.

To view today’s filings, as well as previous filings in the case, visit

Matthew Hamilton