The New York Times reports: Spurred by a recent Supreme Court decision, independent political groups are using their financial muscle and organizational clout as never before to influence the presidential race, pumping money and troops into early nominating states on behalf of their favored candidates.
Iowans have been bombarded over the last few days with radio spots supporting John Edwards that were paid for by a group affiliated with locals of the Service Employees International Union, which just kicked in $800,000 — on top of $760,000 already spent.
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, rolled across Iowa on Monday in a customized black-and-gold bus emblazoned with his picture and the logo of the International Association of Firefighters, which has spent several hundred thousand dollars supporting him. And at campaign events in Iowa, backers in A.F.S.C.M.E. union shirts turned out Monday to show their support for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York. Those appearances come in addition to the union’s $770,000 advertising campaign promoting her candidacy.
The groups are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with the campaigns. But the candidates, while often distancing themselves from these efforts, certainly benefit from their activities. Iowa airwaves have been filled with commercials from these groups as they take advantage of the June ruling that lifted a ban on broadcast messages from independent groups within 30 days of a primary or caucus.
Independent groups also act as a vehicle for negative advertising that campaigns are reluctant to engage in. The Club for Growth, for instance, has spent $700,000 so far, largely on broadcast spots here and in other early voting states that criticize Mike Huckabee’s record on taxes while he was Arkansas governor, an effort that has received several hundred thousands of dollars from an Arkansas political rival of Mr. Huckabee, a Republican. -- Outside Groups Spend Heavily and Visibly to Sway ’08 Races