Munger Isn’t Helping Assembly Candidates Get On Ballot; He’s Helping Munger Take-Over CRP

filing feeA few days ago, the Los Angeles Times  reported that Charles Munger Jr. made spurt of political contributions to Republican candidates for Assembly, primarily “sacrificial lambs” in heavily-Democratic districts, to ensure they were able to pay their filing fees and be on the ballot. According to the piece:

Charles Munger Jr., one of California Republicans’ biggest donors, is chipping in some of his wealth to ensure his party has candidates on the ballot in more Assembly districts.

Several Republican candidates received Munger contributions ranging from $1,000 to $3,000, and some of them said the money helped cover the cost of filing to run in this year’s election.

The donations were dispersed right around the filing deadline March 7 and went to candidates in blue districts where most are facing off with Democratic incumbents.

It’s a positive article filled with quotes from grateful quotes from candidates taking Munger’s assistance at face value:

Joe Gardner, a retired policeman running for the second time against Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), said he met Munger at the recent Republican convention in Burlingame.

“He took an interest in my campaign for the few minutes I talked with him,” Gardner said.

His filing fee was about $850, and he said Munger’s donation “was timely to help pay our fee and also do outreach efforts.”

Sol Jobrack, who works for his local rail commission in the Central Valley and is running against Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), said he reached out to Munger when he began planning his campaign.

“He’s a moderate Republican and I’m a moderate guy,” he said.

Munger followed through with $3,000, which arrived soon after Jobrack paid his filing fee out of his own pocket.

Charles Munger Jr. isn’t running a political charity, and his real interest isn’t ensuring the incumbents in super-Democratic districts have a GOP opponent to clobber this November. Remember: Munger’s goal is to take-over the California Republican Party, wring-out its conservatism and re-shape in his moderate image.

The LA Times missed a key fact: Republican legislative nominees – win or lose – appoints up to 8 members of the California Republican Party central committee.

More importantly, each Republican legislative nominee is automatically a member of the CRP’s platform committee. Although, Munger lost his fight to water down the CRP platform in 2011, but he never gave up on that political project. He is now arranging his order of battle in preparation for a renewed attempt to re-write the CRP platform.

We’ll put it another way: by paying their filing fees, Charles Munger isn’t helping these Assembly candidates – he is helping himself. The bill to each nominee for Munger’s “generosity” will come due when it’s time for them to make their CRP appointments, and you can be sure Munger and his operatives will have very specific “suggestions” for them in that regard.

This is just the latest example of Charles Munger Jr. trying to buy the California Republican Party; in this case, by literally buying seats. It brings up the dilemma that, in our opinion, too many Republicans have refused to face: can California Republicans – as individual candidates or collectively as a party — take advantage of Munger’s financial largesse without mortgaging their political souls to him.

Most, if not all, the various beneficiaries of Munger’s money would probably answer “yes.” Based on what we’ve seen, The Munger Games believes most, if not all, of those people are fooling themselves.

Mark our words: next year, Munger will again fight to water down the state party platform to the philosophical consistency of school cafeteria oatmeal. In 2011, Munger was new on the scene and conservatives were able to defeat him. The big question is, after four years during which many of those people have been taking Munger’s money, will conservatives have the strength of conviction to choose principles over the will of the party paymaster?

Electronic Frontier Foundation: “Fair Use Triumphs in the Munger Games”

Eff logo_fullThe Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world, and champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development.

EFF joined us in our legal battle against the Munger/Dhilon intimidation lawsuit and celebrated our legal victory with this statement:

Fair Use Triumphs in the Munger Games

In a win for online fair use and the free speech it makes possible, a federal district court judgehas ruled that using a campaign headshot as part of a critical, noncommercial blog post does not infringe copyright.

The case started back in April, when California Republican Party Vice Chairman Harmeet K. Dhillon sued an anonymous blogger over the use of a five year old headshot on “The Munger Games” website—a site dedicated to criticism of Charles Munger Jr., donor and current chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Party, and his perceived political allies. The headshot was part of a post criticizing Dhillon and was originally used as part of her failed campaign for the California Assembly in 2008. Given that the use in question was obviously a lawful fair use, it appeared that the suit was motivated more by a desire to use the judicial process to unmask her critics than by any legitimate copyright concern. 

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More On The Defeat of Munger/Dhillon Lawsuit Against Munger Games

As we posted earlier, free speech won a round in late February when federal Judge Susan Illston granted our motion for summary judgment and dismissed the  lawsuit filed nearly a year ago by California Republican Party Vice Chair Harmeet Dhillon — acting as the catspaw in Charles Munger Jr.’s attempt to intimidate this blog into silence via litigation.

Again, here’s the photo in question from our February 13, 2013 post:

Harmeet-K.-Dhillon

 

It’s worth providing a more in-depth examination of Judge Illston’s ruling, which lays bare the frivolous lawsuit nature of the suit.

Our contention has been our use of the photo fell squarely within the “fair use” exception to copyright laws and Judge Illston agreed with us. Although the case was set to go to trial this Friday, February 28, Judge Illston saw no need for that and on February 25 issued a judgment dismissing the Munger/Dhillon lawsuit. She found that “the majority of the fair use factors, including the most important factor, weigh in favor of the defendant.  Accordingly, the Court finds that the fair use defense applies as a matter of law, and GRANTS the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.”

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Munger/Dhillon Lawsuit Against Munger Games Gets Crushed In Federal Court

As we have been chronicling for nearly a year, Charles Munger, acting through his puppet, Harmeet Dhillon, sued the Munger Games in an outrageous attempt to stifle this blog and obtain access to the e-mail accounts of our supporters (paging the NSA?).

The ostensible reason for their lawsuit was our use in February of last year of a photo of Harmeet Dhillon from her failed 2008 Assembly campaign; a photo we found on the Internet. The lawsuit claimed “copyright infringement” (Dhillon didn’t copyright the photo until 9 days after we used it). Here’s the photo:

Harmeet-K.-Dhillon

Harmeet Dhillon

Munger/Dhillon served subpoenas around the state demanding access to our e-mail accounts and ultimately our supporters and our identities. It was a campaign of harassment by means of litigation. Their strategy was to use the fear of expensive litigation to intimidate us into silence. It was a naked exercise in using the power of Munger’s inherited wealth as a weapon against critics.

Federal judges withdrew all of these subpoenas as a result of an earlier ruling in our favor – leaving the underlying lawsuit.

When a case is so frivolous that there are no disputed issues of fact, it can be resolved without a trial by way of a motion for summary judgment. The federal judge in this case, Judge Susan Illston, viewed the Munger/Dhillon lawsuit as so frivolous that she instructed The Munger Games’ attorney to file just such a motion – which are typically resolved through a series of briefs from the opposing attorneys followed by a hearing before the Judge.

Although she had set a hearing date, after reading both sides arguments, Judge Illston determined the Munger/Dhillon lawsuit was so lacking in merit that a hearing was unnecessary and she summarily dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice.

We filed motion for monetary sanctions  under Rule 11, as well as a Motion to Tax Costs, against Munger/Dhillon; both are still pending.

The Munger/Dhillon axis tried to justify their frivolous “copyright” lawsuit by arguing that this blog might somehow, someway, someday be making money behind the scenes. As Judge Illston dryly observed, “the website does not request payment or contributions for anything, and has no functionality that permits payment of money.” She went on to say that “unfounded speculation” does not substitute for facts.

Dhillon (who is also the Vice Chair of the California Republican Party) also filed a Declaration under Penalty of Perjury falsely claiming our use of her five-year old photo had damaged its commercial value (which was no doubt tremendous).  Again, the Court saw right through this false claim, pointing out Dhillon admitted that never had she “ever attempted to sell the headshot photo at anytime in the past, or that she had any plans to attempt to do so in the future.” In short, the Court saw through this charade of a lawsuit for what it was: an attempt to stifle and quiet The Munger Games, and not a legitimate copyright dispute .

This was a case of free speech under fire. The prestigious Electronic Frontier Foundation recognized as much, filed a motion for leave to file an amicus brief on our behalf, along with its proposed brief, throwing its legal weight behind our common sense contention that our use of Dhillon’s photo fell squarely within the accepted “fair use” doctrine.

This is a victory for free speech, and a defeat for political bullying. We have reposted Ms. Dhillon’s headshot photo in its rightful place of honor in the prior article exposing her as Charles Munger’s puppet.

Cuomo and Munger Joined By Contempt for Conservatives

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo believes that pro-life activists along with anti-gay activists, and supporters of the Second Amendment, are not welcome in his state.

During a radio interview on Friday, Cuomo pointed out that Republicans were in the midst of a schism, where conservatives worked against moderate Republicans.

“Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves,” he said. “Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

Washington Examiner, January 20, 2104

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent disparaging comments towards conservative Republicans call up some disconcerting parallels to Charles Munger Jr.’s quest to re-make the California Republican Party in his more moderate, less partisan image.

munger cuomo on to somethingThe clear pattern of Munger’s political activity during the last few years has been to drive conservatives from positions of leadership and influence. His rhetoric may not be as blistering as Cuomo’s — Munger speaks more with his money than his mouth — but his contempt for conservatives equals the ferocity of Cuomo’s. Cuomo wants to kick conservatives out of New York, and Munger is working hard to kick them out of the California Republican Party. From his failed attempt to dilute the CRP platform to his support of the top-two primary to his heavy-handed campaign spending against conservatives in Republicans v. Republican general election match-ups, Munger’s goal is to remake the California Republican Party as if 1964 never happened.

New York State offers us a glimpse into the final destination of this road. Here in California, the challenge for Republicans is making the party strong enough to effectively support Republican candidates in statewide and legislative races. In New York State, the challenge is keeping Republican office-holders from endorsing liberal Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo:

Cuomo has been aggressively seeking to win endorsements of moderate Republicans from Long Island and Westchester districts with heavily Democratic electorates. Last week, Cox, in an unprecedented and seemingly desperate move, made public a letter to unnamed Republican officials urging them not to back Cuomo.

Cuomo has already been endorsed by former US Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, now a lobbyist with business before state government, and is hoping to win the endorsements of other Nassau County officials, including Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos, who is widely seen as a Cuomo political ally.

The GOP in California has its share of problems, but at least our state party chairman doesn’t have to spend time and energy keeping Republican officeholders from endorsing Jerry Brown for re-election.

But that’s the natural result of blurring the boundaries and smoothing out the differences between the two parties. When activist donors like Charles Munger Jr. work to drive principled conservatives out of the GOP and drain party affiliation from elections, then politicians will act less from partisan motives and more from personal political calculation.

Put another way, the net effect of the multi-front war being waged by Munger is to make the California Republican Party less Republican. The GOP in New York State has simply advanced further down that road than the California Republican Party. A competitive GOP can’t be built on such a foundation, because that’s a foundation of sand.

If Charles Munger Jr. succeeds in dragging our party further down that road, not only will it become even more difficult to regenerate the GOP in California, but continued Democratic dominance in the de-partisanized political environment of the top-two primary system will make the kind of party disloyalty we see in New York more common in California.

The warning signs are their for anyone to see; it’s only necessary to one’s eyes.

Munger for Governor Boomlet Fizzles Faster Than a 24-Hour Flu

File this one under the “Confessions of a Desperate Mind.”

Recently, failed 2010 Lietenant Governor candidate Able Maldonado, who recently ended his gubernatorial candidacy when it failed to gain any traction, blurted out a tweet for Charles Munger Jr. to run for governor:

Maldo munger tweet

In fact, Maldonado blurted out a series of tweets citing what he seemed to think are compelling reasons for Munger to be the Republican challenger to Gov. Jerry Brown:

Maldo tweets

Thanks, Abel, for reminding us Munger gave us the redistricting “reform” that the Democrats so adeptly gamed in their favor! And for giving us the Louisiana jungle primary that led to scarce GOP resources being wasted on Republican v. Republican leglislative and Congressional elections, and with Munger himself being the chief wastrel to the tune of $3 million in 2012! Since the GOP wound up losing seats we should have won, how is that an argument that Republicans should make Munger their gubernatorial nominee?

Obviously, these are hardly the compelling reasons. These twitter eruptions speak as much to Maldo’s unfitness to have been governor as to Munger’s.

Rather than ignite a grass roots prairie fire of support, Maldo’s cri de couer produced this response from The Bow-Tied One:

“My efforts to pass redistricting reform in California creating a citizen’s commission to draw fair districts, and to establish the “top-two” primary to increase voter choice, as well as to help rebuild the California Republican Party to restore a second voice in the state, have been directed at improving democracy and governance, and certainly not at seeking any office.”

“Abel is correct that I have never flatly said no to the question of whether I would run for governor in 2014. The question has heretofore not come up in public. However, now that it has, the public requires clarity on the matter. So, no, while I appreciate Abel’s analysis and good wishes, I shall not be running for governor, or any other office, in 2014.”

A sensible response, as even Munger realizes that nominating yet another moderate white uber-wealthy self-funder with no governing experience (and with an effete, bow-tie aura, to boot) is not the way to build the Republican Party in California.

Munger Games In The News: “Bloggers Have Rights, Too”

munger bloggers have rightsThe Courthouse News Service picked up the story about the Electronic Frontier Foundation asking the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California to dismiss the “politically motivated” Munger/Dhillon lawsuit against The Munger Games.

From Courthouse News Service:

Bloggers Have Rights Too, EFF Says

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – So-called “politically motivated” copyright claims over the use of a California attorney’s 5-year-old head shot are bogus, a digital rights group claims in an amicus brief.

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation asked the Federal Court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by California Republican Party Vice Chairman Harmeet Dhillon, who sued an anonymous blogger and others over use of Dhillon’s campaign photo in a post on The Munger Games.
The website – which criticizes Charles Munger Jr., Santa Clara County Republican Party of Silicon Valley chairman – was launched in 2013, and has been called “bigoted” by at least one conservative critic.

Anonymous bloggers who run the site call Munger Jr. a “super-wealthy, bow-tied, liberal,” and Dhillon “an ACLU-affiliated attorney who doubles as the vice chair of the California Republican Party.”

The photo in question was from a failed Assembly race in 2008.

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The $128,665 (And Counting) Question: Who’s Funding Harmeet’s Lawsuit?

We admit the headline is a rhetorical question, because she’s clearly acting at the behest of her patron, Charles Munger Jr. The real question is: who will pay for our attorney fees if we prevail, as we are confident we will?

Our attorney’s motion for summary judgment (page 23) includes a request for the recovery of full costs and a reasonable attorney’s fee. As of the end of December 2013, those fees are $128,665. Since the hearing is expected at the end of February, those obviously do not include January and February.

The motion cites several arguments as to why Munger/Dhillon should foot the bill we incurred fighting what the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls a “politically-motivated lawsuit.” One is that Harmeet Dhillon should have known her case was a flimsy loser. Some excerpts:

Cases from the Ninth Circuit have bolstered the notion that attorney’s fees and costs should be awarded as a deterrent to bringing frivolous or even borderline frivolous copyright actions, especially when the motivation behind the action is suspect due to the plaintiff’s knowledge of copyright law. In the SOFA Entertainment case, supra, defendant had used a seven-second clip from The Ed Sullivan Show in a theatrical musical, Jersey Boys. The musical was about a band that had been introduced on the television show. The court found that plaintiff had already been embroiled in a similar copyright action once before, involving the use of Elvis Presley television clips in a biographical movie about Elvis.

In light of the education SOFA received as the plaintiff in Elvis Presley Enterprises, SOFA should have known from the outset that its chances of success in this case were slim to none. Moreover, we agree with the district court that “lawsuits of this nature … have a chilling effect on creativity insofar as they discourage the fair use of existing works in the creation of new ones.” The fair use doctrine is an integral part of copyright law precisely because it gives authors “breathing space within the confines of copyright” to build upon their predecessors’ works. Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579, 114 S.Ct. 1164. When a fee award encourages a defendant to litigate a meritorious fair use claim against an unreasonable claim of infringement, the policies of the Copyright Act are served. Fogerty, 510 U.S. at 527, 114 S.Ct. 1023. Therefore, we conclude that the district court’s award of attorney fees to Dodger was justified.
SOFA Entertainment, 709 F.3d at 1281.

Similarly, in the present case, Dhillon cannot claim that she is ignorant of copyright law or the application of the Fair Use doctrine. On the contrary, her law firm, Dhillon & Smith LLP, holds itself out as experts in copyright law on its website. (Cigel Dec. ¶ 15) In addition, as already stated, Dhillon raised the Fair Use doctrine in her original Ex Parte application for leave to issue a subpoena on New Dream Network to discovery Doe 1’s identity, which was filed the very same day as her frivolous copyright Complaint. (Dkt. 2) Dhillon was fully aware of the Fair Use doctrine, yet chose to ignore its obvious application to this case and instead moved brazenly ahead with her scheme to uncover the identity of the people who criticized her benefactor, Munger, and her. See also, Mattel, Inc. v. Entertainment, Inc., 705 F.3d 1108, 1111 (9th Cir. 2013) (affirming an award of attorney’s fees in a copyright claim “that was stunning in scope and unreasonable in the relief it requested”)

In the present case, the public has a paramount interest in robust political debate. Anonymous Online Speakers, supra, 661 F.3d at 1173. Dhillon’s frivolous copyright claim seeks to chill free speech rather than promote it. Further, Dhillon seeks to squelch original literary commentary and criticism, in violation of the primary purpose of the Copyright Act. Sofa Entm’t, supra, 709 F.3d at 1280.

Because Dhillon’s firm publically touts its expertise in copyright law, she cannot claim she brought her $250 claim in good faith for purposes of recouping infringed rights of a six year old campaign publicity headshot. Instead, Dhillon brought this action to learn the identity of the author of the mungergames.net political blog for the benefit of her benefactor, Charles Munger. This Court should therefore award Doe 1 his attorney’s fees and costs in the amount of $128,665.00 through December 2013, plus all additional time spent in 2014, in defending this action, . (Cigel Decl. at ¶ 16-19)

We did not seek this lawsuit. We sought only to spark a robust debate over the outsize role Charles Munger Jr. is playing in California Republican politics, and his heavy-handed attempt to determine the destiny of our party. Unfortunately for all involved, this so-called moderate who is supposedly attempting to “open up” the GOP is so intolerant of criticism that he’s using the second-ranking officer in the California Republican Party in an attempt to gag us. We assume Munger has promised Harmeet Dhillon he’ll pick up the tab for any legal costs. If we prevail, as we have faith that we will, we hope Munger doesn’t leave Harmeet stuck with the bill.

Electronic Frontier Foundation to Court: “Dismiss Politically Motivated Copyright Lawsuit” Against Munger Games

Big news: the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has filed an amicus brief taking our side in Dhillon v. Doe – our legal battle with CRP Vice Chair and Munger proxy Harmeet Dhillon, who filed a flimsy copyright infringement lawsuit last year in an attempt to discover our identities and (Munger and Dhillon hope) to silence The Munger Games.

EFF is a “non-profit, member-supported digital civil liberties organization” with “more than 28,000 active dues-paying members, including over 6,000 active members in California, and more than 18,000 California subscribers to EFF’s weekly e-mail newsletter, EFFector.”

The EFF sent out this press release on Monday of this week:

EFF to Court: Dismiss Politically Motivated Copyright Lawsuit

Use of Campaign Photo on Political Blog Is Clearly ‘Fair Use’

San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging a federal court to dismiss a politically motivated copyright lawsuit.

The case started in April, when California Republican Party Vice Chairman Harmeet K. Dhillon sued an anonymous blogger over the use of a five-year-old campaign photo in a critical post on “The Munger Games” website – a site dedicated to criticism of donor and current chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Party of Silicon Valley, Charles Munger, Jr. However, the use of the photo is clearly allowed under the “fair use doctrine,” which ensures that copyrighted works can be used by others for purposes including criticism and commentary.

“The fair use doctrine protects what Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert do with copyrighted material every night – they use it to illustrate, explain, and amuse. Fair use is a basic building block for free speech, and the Munger Games blogger has as much right to fair use as a TV star,” said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. “This lawsuit is not about copyright infringement but simply a bald attempt to intimidate a political blogger, and the court should shut it down now.”

In its amicus brief filed Friday, EFF asked the judge to end this case quickly and decisively, as allowing the lawsuit to proceed would discourage other bloggers from exercising their First Amendment rights to criticize political figures.

“Protection for political criticism and commentary lies at the heart of the First Amendment,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. “Courts should be highly skeptical of attempts to punish speakers engaged in this kind of political speech. While the blogger in this case is fighting back, copyright lawsuits are expensive and others may be intimidated from speaking in the future. EFF urges the court to dismiss this meritless suit as soon as possible.”

For the full amicus brief in Dhillon v. Doe:
https://www.eff.org/ https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-19

Contacts:

Matt Zimmerman
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
mattz@eff.org

Corynne McSherry
Intellectual Property Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
corynne@eff.org

Here are links to the amicus brief, and to our attorney’s motion for summary judgment and accompanying declarations (here and here).

The EFF’s decision to involves itself in our case is a sign that what began as a clumsy attempt at intimidation via litigation by Munger/Dhillon has mushroomed into a digital civil rights case to protect anonymous free speech.

The EFF  is hardly a partisan or political organization. They could probably care less about Charles Munger’s politics or our opinions of Charles Munger’s politics. But the EFF does recognize that this attempt by a rich and powerful individual to use litigation to silence critics as a threat to free speech.

Charles Munger Jr. and his catspaw Harmeet Dhillon embarked on this rash course nearly a year ago, no doubt confident we would collapse like a house of cards at the prospect of a costly legal battle with a wealthy political dilettante who had spent $54 million on the 2012 elections, and who had already displayed a ruthless willingness to litigate a critic into financial ruin.

Instead, Munger and his familiar find they are not only becoming poster children for censorship and political bullying, but they may well end up financing a court decision affirming the free speech rights of The Munger Games and others.

As the EFF states in its amicus brief, “Some cases need to end quickly and decisively. By any measure, this is one of them.”

We are hopeful Judge Susan Illston agrees.

 

The Munger Games In the News: “But Munger and His Big Money are Not Beloved by All in the GOP.”

In case you missed it: reporting last month on Republican City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s campaign for San Diego mayor, the “San Diego Reader” noted a $1,000 contribution to Faulconer from Charles Munger Jr. before reporting at length about the opposition among Republicans to Munger’s ongoing attempt to turn the California Republican Party into a vessel for his blase, low-carlorie, sugar-free version of Republicanism. The “Reader” even emblazoned the article with this blog’s trademark “Munger Money Bow-Tie”:

But Munger and his big money are not beloved by all in the GOP. As reported this past October by SFGate.com, conservative detractors have set up a blog called The Munger Games that blasts the heir as “the one-man maelstrom of money intent on remaking California Republicanism in his bow-tied image.”

“How much damage can one man do to a political party? In the case of Charles Munger, Jr. and the California Republican Party,” wrote an anonymous Munger Games poster, “the answer is: a lot.”

Munger’s money powered another successful ballot measure in 2010 that gave California a top-two primary. Conservative Republicans loathed both it and Prop. 20, saying they sapped the party of its strength.

As it is now, only 29 percent of California’s registered voters are Republican, the GOP holds no statewide offices, and is in the minority in both legislative chambers.

The battle has led to a federal lawsuit brought by Munger ally and state GOP vice chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon of San Francisco, who is attempting to unmask the anonymous bloggers.

Jon Fleischman, proprietor of the conservative website Flashreport.org, said he’s had “a lot of conversations with Republicans who are glad that somebody is providing some criticism of Munger.”