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April 6, 2014

"Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw?"

Dale Jackson, a radio talk-show host, has a disjointed attacked beginning with: The Alabama Foundation for Limited Government is not a conservative group...

Anytime a brand new political group pops up out of nowhere with an absurd amount of money, people should be concerned and careful about what they believe.

As with most of these groups, we will find out who is behind this later but we already know it’s the AEA. -- Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw? | AL.com Disclaimer: I do legal work for the AEA.

(Read the comments following this initial rant. There is a lively discussion about the true source of these ads.)

October 10, 2010

Alabama: GOP question (lack of) financial disclosures by new PAC

The Huntsville Times reports: State Republicans have raised questions about what they call a lack of financial disclosures by a political action committee linked to the Democratic Party.

The head of the Front Door Democracy PAC, however, said there's been no wrongdoing because the PAC isn't involved in campaigns.

"We're a political action committee, but we don't do any candidate-specific work or we don't give money to candidates," said Bradley Davidson, who founded the PAC, which lists its address as Homewood.

But two things about the PAC caught the eye of the state Republican Party, according to spokesman Philip Bryan. The first was the PAC's website, frontdoordemocracy.com, which boasts of ties to the Democratic Party. The second was the lack of financial disclosures with the secretary of state. Read the whole story --> Dems PAC draws questions from GOP | al.com

September 19, 2008

"Independent Political Groups Return With 527 Ads"

Peter Overby reports on NPR: As the Nov. presidential election draws nearer, ad by independent political groups are already on the air. John McCain and Barack Obama have said that these groups should stay out of the election process. But there seems to be no way to stop them. -- Independent Political Groups Return With 527 Ads : NPR

August 8, 2008

"Accountable America" sends warning letter to GOP donors (letter attached)

Nearly 10,000 of the biggest donors to Republican candidates and causes across the country will probably receive a foreboding “warning” letter in the mail next week.

The letter is an opening shot across the bow from an unusual new outside political group on the left that is poised to engage in hardball tactics to prevent similar groups on the right from getting off the ground this fall.

Led by Tom Matzzie, a liberal political operative who has been involved with some prominent left-wing efforts in recent years, the newly formed nonprofit group, Accountable America, is planning to confront donors to conservative groups, hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions. ...

The warning letter is intended as a first step, alerting donors who might be considering giving to right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives. -- Group Plans Campaign Against G.O.P. Donors

Note: If anyone gets one of these letters, please send it to me. I will redact it to remove personal information before publishing. The letter is available here. By the way, the website is actually www.accountableamerica.COM (not .org).

July 2, 2008

DOJ to go after 527s

The Swamp reports: In a letter to a campaign finance watchdog group, the Justice Department says it plans to make cracking down on so-called 527 groups a priority this election cycle.

The department was responding to an inquiry from Democracy 21, a bipartisan nonprofit that presses for aggressive enforcement of campaign finance laws.

Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer wrote to the department in May, noting that after the 2004 presidential election, the Federal Election Commission took civil enforcement actions against a number of 527 groups for illegally spending soft money to influence that election. The FEC found that four 527 groups alone had made massive illegal soft money expenditures totaling more than $200 million to influence the 2004 presidential campaign. ...

In response to Wertheimer's letter, Justice Department official John C. Keeney wrote:

The investigation and prosecution of knowing and willful violations of the Federal Election Campaign Act are priorities of this Department. Please be assured that we intend to vigorously pursue instances where individuals or organizations knowingly and intentionally violate the clear commands of this important statute.

Should you or your organization come into possession of information indicating that such intentional violations of established and known statutory duties and prohibitions have occurred, you should bring that information to the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. -- The Swamp: DOJ to pursue rogue 527 groups

May 29, 2008

Lieberman and Graham leave board of anti-Obama group

The New York Times reports: Senators Joseph I. Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, prominent surrogates for Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign, stepped down Wednesday from their positions with an independent group that released a pair of Internet advertisements attacking Senator Barack Obama on Iraq.

Mr. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Mr. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, were both on the policy advisory board to the organization, Vets for Freedom, which on Wednesday released its second Web advertisement in less than a week attacking Mr. Obama. ...

Vets for Freedom is not organized as a 527, which refers to a section of the tax code. The designation often carries a negative connotation because of the attacks of 527 groups like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 campaign. Instead, Vets for Freedom is organized as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, an increasingly common tactic for outside groups seeking to get involved in campaigns.

The group also has a political action committee, which financed the Internet advertisements. -- 2 Senators for McCain Leave Group After Ads

May 14, 2008

Presidential campaigns seek to restrict money to 527's

The Washington Post reports: Sen. Barack Obama's top fundraisers have asked his campaign donors to refrain from contributing to liberal independent political organizations in hopes of controlling the tone and message of the general-election campaign.

At a meeting in Indianapolis on May 2, members of the Democratic front-runner's finance committee made it clear Obama (Ill.) is worried that overtly negative advertising from outside organizations could undermine his themes of unity and hope. ...

The meeting was only the most overt effort by Obama or Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, to freeze out "527" groups -- named after a provision in the tax code -- which are not allowed to openly support a candidate but have helped define recent elections through negative advertising.

The McCain campaign has been less organized than Obama's in its efforts to counter the groups, but the senator from Arizona has made clear his antipathy toward them -- without much effect. -- Obama, McCain Aim to Curb '527s' - washingtonpost.com

February 4, 2008

Another pro-Democratic 527

The Top of the Ticket blog of the LA Times reports: Here comes Big George again. Billionaire George Soros is weighing in heavily with more cash, delivering $2.5 million to a new political organization called Fund for America.

According to a year-end campaign report filed with the Internal Revenue Service and uncovered by The Times' Dan Morain, Fund for America was organized by Taco Bell heir Rob McKay, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and Anna Burger of the Service Employees International Union. The SEIU matched Soros with another $2.5 million, too. Other major donors include investor Donald Sussman, who has given $1 million and AKT Development of Sacramento.

Although it cannot get directly involved in advocacy for or against candidates, Fund for America is expected to air television ads and take other political action aimed at helping Democrats claim the White House and retain control of Congress.The group is organized as a "527," so named for the revenue code section that defines it. -- Top of the Ticket : Los Angeles Times : George Soros pours $2.5 million into new advocacy group

January 30, 2008

Obama can't stop them, so they help him

The New York Times reports: After months of denouncing the influence of special-interest money in politics, Senator Barack Obama is nonetheless entering a critical phase of the presidential campaign benefiting from millions of dollars being spent outside campaign finance rules.

Mr. Obama has repudiated a California group, Vote Hope, that is working on his behalf. But it has pressed on and, along with a sister organization called PowerPac.org, is planning to spend up to $4 million promoting him in California and conducting voter registration drives aimed at blacks in 11 Southern states.

The group has already run radio advertisements with local ministers in South Carolina. New advertisements, some for television, have been prepared for California, one with the rap star Common and others focusing on black and Latino voters.

As the campaign treasuries of Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are rapidly draining heading into the nominating contests in more than 20 states on Tuesday, independent political groups — whether so-called 527 groups, political action committees, nonprofit organizations or trade unions — are stepping in to help fill the void. The efforts of these groups, particularly 527s, which are named for a section of the tax code under which they fall, worry campaign finance watchdogs because many can take unlimited contributions from donors and have limited oversight. -- Outside Groups Aid Obama, Their Vocal Critic - New York Times

January 1, 2008

"Outside Groups Spend Heavily and Visibly to Sway ’08 Races"

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

December 5, 2007

501(c)(4) groups are involved in campaigns

The Washington Post reports: Nonprofit groups created to educate the public and lobby on issues have started inserting themselves into the presidential primaries, adding an unexpected wild card to wide-open elections in both parties.

The groups provide a new avenue for routing millions of dollars into an election cycle already awash with spending by traditional political organizations. The nonprofits are competing with the campaigns for voter attention, especially in early-voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, and their advertising, phone calls and mailings could help diffuse the candidates' own messages. ...

The nonprofit groups, known by the designation 501(c)(4) because of the tax code section that applies to them, have been around for decades. They have long been a force influencing Congress and state legislatures. Conservatives have extensively used them over the past decade to help gain support during debates over legislation.

This year, these nonprofits have already started to encroach on turf that has been dominated by political parties, political action committees and, in the past few elections, by independent political groups created under section 527 of the IRS code. The latter groups spent $685 million in 2004 trying to influence voters with everything from antiwar messages against President Bush to ads sponsored by a group of Swift Boat veterans that questioned the heroism of Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry. -- Nonprofits Become A Force in Primaries - washingtonpost.com

November 19, 2007

FEC fines Media Fund $580,000

AP reports: A union-financed advocacy group that played a major role in the 2004 elections has agreed to pay a $580,000 fine after the Federal Election Commission concluded it illegally ran advertising against President Bush and in favor of Democrat John Kerry.

In an agreement announced Monday, the FEC said the now inactive Media Fund spent $53.4 million during the contest on television, radio and newspaper ads and direct mail that made reference to Bush or Kerry. The FEC said the fund violated campaign finance laws because it accepted unlimited donations from labor unions and expressly advocated the defeat or victory of a political candidate.

The Media Fund is the latest in a string of so-called 527 organizations the FEC has fined for their activities during the 2004 presidential campaign. They include groups on both sides of the election, including the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth as well as the liberal MoveOn.org.

Lawyers for these groups have argued that at the time of the campaign they believed they were acting within the law. But the FEC has concluded that 527 organizations that stated their desire to influence the presidential election through fundraising, public statements or advertisements violated the law. Such activity, the FEC has said, could only be conducted by political committees registered with the FEC that abide by contribution limits and public disclosure requirements. -- FEC fines group allied with Democrats - Yahoo! News

February 28, 2007

FEC and Progress for America Voter Fund reach a $750,000 settlement

The FEC announces: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) announced today that it has reached a settlement with the Progress for America Voter Fund (PFA-VF), a 527 organization accused of violating Federal campaign finance laws during the 2004 Presidential election. PFA-VF agreed to pay $750,000 to settle charges that it failed to register and file disclosure reports as a Federal political committee and accepted contributions in violation of Federal limits and source prohibitions. This represents the third largest civil penalty in the Commission’s thirty-two year history. The Commission unanimously approved the conciliation agreement.

“This settlement demonstrates once again that the Commission is serious about enforcing the campaign finance law,” said FEC Chairman Robert Lenhard. “It should now be clear to organizations that want to be active in the 2008 cycle that the activities we saw in this case are prohibited under the law.”

PFA-VF raised $44.9 million in contributions in the months preceding the 2004 General Election. Over $41 million of those funds consisted of excessive contributions from individuals, while over $2 million came from sources prohibited from making contributions under the Act. PFA-VF funded over $31.1 million in communications related to the 2004 General Election, including television and radio advertisements, direct mailings, email communications, and Internet banner ads. Certain communications expressly advocated either the election of President George W. Bush or the defeat of Senator John Kerry, constituting expenditures under the Act. -- 0228MUR5487

Thanks to Brett Kappel for sending me the link to this.

February 2, 2007

FEC files its 'explanation and justification' in court

The Washington Post reports: The Federal Election Commission said yesterday that it will police "527" groups, political organizations that largely operated outside the new campaign finance limits during the 2004 presidential election, by looking at how the groups word their appeals for contributions, how they describe themselves, and how they spend their money.

If the groups make clear that they are advocating for or against a specific candidate, the FEC would regulate them. ...

The FEC filed the 44-page explanation of its approach in U.S. District Court yesterday in response to a lawsuit challenging the agency's effectiveness in regulating the independent groups.

Some of the groups, which are called 527s because of their designation in the tax code, raised and spent large sums of money to pay for nuanced political ads that appeared to be intended to skirt the new federal rules. -- FEC to Police '527' Groups' Campaign Activities - washingtonpost.com

January 25, 2007

Colorado: bill to regulate 527s pending in House

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reports: A bill requiring so-called 527 political advocacy groups to identify financial donors passed the Colorado House Committee on State, Veterans and Military Affairs by a 9-1 vote on Thursday.

It will now head to the full House for a vote.

The bill, aimed to identify financial donors that have flooded both state and federal elections with millions of dollars that mostly fund political attack ads, will bring more fair rules to campaign finance laws, said Rep. Morgan Carroll, D – Aurora. -- The Coloradoan - www.coloradoan.com - Ft. Collins, CO.

November 2, 2006

CREW files IRS complaint against Bob Perry's 527

The CREW blog reports: Americans for Honesty on Issues (AFHOI), a 527 organization totally funded by Texan Bob Perry, is not living up to its name. Seems the group is not being quite honest with Americans. They have failed to report contributions and expenditures with the IRS as mandated by federal law. Because of this serious lapse, CREW has filed a complaint with the IRS against the organization:

As of November 2, 2006, AFHOI had not filed reports with the IRS for two reporting periods, including the 3rd quarter report, due October 16, 2006, and the pre-general election report due on October 26, 2006. Federal law requires 527s like AFHOI to disclose all contributions and expenditures to the IRS.

Any 527 that fails to report its expenditures and contributions may be assessed a tax up to 35% of the unreported totals. CREW estimates that the IRS could fine AFHOI up to $1.68 million.

-- Citizens Blogging for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington

October 30, 2006

527s spending $300 million on campaigns

The Los Angeles Times reports: Unions, corporations and wealthy individuals have pumped nearly $300 million this year into unregulated political groups, funding dozens of aggressive and sometimes shadowy campaigns independent of party machines.

The groups, both liberal and conservative, air TV and radio spots, conduct polls, run phone banks, canvass door-to-door and stage get-out-the-vote rallies, with no oversight by the Federal Election Commission. Set up as tax-exempt "issue advocacy" committees, they cannot explicitly endorse candidates. But they can do everything short of telling voters how to mark their ballots.

Because they can accept unlimited donations from any source, the committees — known as 527s — have emerged as the favored vehicle for millionaires and interest groups seeking to set the political agenda. ...

Named for a section of the IRS code, 527s have been around for years but became a political force in 2004 after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the McCain--Feingold Bill — limited donations to political parties. Groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the right and America Coming Together on the left contributed $600 million that year, with a heavy focus on the presidential race. -- UNREGULATED GROUPS WIELD MILLIONS TO SWAY VOTERS - Los Angeles Times

October 26, 2006

Kansas: CREW files complaint against state A.G.

The New York Times reports: A nonprofit group has filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the role that two churches may have played in the re-election campaign of Kansas’ attorney general.

A nonprofit group has filed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the role that two churches may have played in the re-election campaign of Kansas’ attorney general. ...

In his memorandum, Mr. Kline identified two Topeka churches, the Light of the World Christian Center and the Wanamaker Woods Church of the Nazarene, which he said had participated in “lit drops” by handing out campaign literature. A woman who answered the telephone at Wanamaker Woods Church said the church had no comment.

The Rev. Greg Varney, pastor of Light of the World Christian Center, issued a statement saying that Mr. Kline had preached at the church on July 9, but insisting that no illegal activity had occurred. “At no time here at our church did Phill bring up politics, re-election or campaign contributions,” the statement said. -- Watchdog Group Accuses Churches of Political Action - New York Times

September 28, 2006

New 527 set up by reality-based community

The New York Times reports: Several prominent scientists said yesterday that they had formed an organization dedicated to electing politicians “who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy.”

Organizers of the group, Scientists and Engineers for America, said it would be nonpartisan, but in interviews several said Bush administration science policies had led them to act. The issues they cited included the administration’s position on climate change, its restrictions on stem cell research and delays in authorizing the over-the-counter sale of emergency contraception.

In a statement posted on its Web site (www.sefora.org), the group said scientists and engineers had an obligation “to enter the political debate when the nation’s leaders systematically ignore scientific evidence and analysis, put ideological interest ahead of scientific truths, suppress valid scientific evidence and harass and threaten scientists for speaking honestly about their research.” ...

Mike Brown, the group’s executive director, said it would be a 527 organization under tax laws, meaning that it could be involved in electoral politics, and that contributions to the group would not be tax deductible. He said it would focus its resources — Internet advertising, speakers and other events — on races in which science issues play a part.

The group is looking at the Senate race in Virginia between George Allen, the incumbent Republican, and James Webb, a Democrat; a stem cell ballot issue in Missouri; the question of intelligent design in Ohio; and Congressional races in Washington State, Mr. Brown said. -- Scientists Form Group to Support Science-Friendly Candidates - New York Times

September 15, 2006

Colorado: Trailhead Group reports contributions and receipts that don't show up on others' reports

Jason Bane writes on dailyKos: As this high-stakes political season enters its final weeks, one of the biggest and most influential political committees at work in Colorado appears to be playing fast and loose with the campaign finance rules. Are they cheating? An exclusive Colorado Confidential investigation of the Trailhead Group reveals questionable financial transactions that literally don't add up.

Over the course of several days, Colorado Confidential examined publicly available financial reports filed with the IRS by the Trailhead Group - a political committee created by some of Colorado's biggest Republican names - and found several transactions totaling $200,000. Contributions to other political committees that Trailhead claims in its IRS filings are not found on the recipient's books, and contributions from those committees back to Trailhead either don't match Trailhead's records or don't appear at all. And on one occasion, a contribution was made to an organization for which Colorado Confidential can find no record of existence. ...

Consider, for example, a $50,000 contribution that Trailhead reports making to the Colorado Leadership Fund - a separate 527 organization filed with the IRS - on April 21, 2006. Just two days later, Trailhead reports receiving a donation of $50,000 from the very same Colorado Leadership Fund (CLF). There is no rule prohibiting 527 organizations from giving money to each other, but the rules are clear that any contribution over $200 and any expenditure over $500 must be reported during the same federally-mandated reporting period.

A review of finance reports filed by CLF shows no record of either a contribution or an expenditure involving Trailhead. Only Trailhead claims both a contribution and expenditure of $50,000. -- Daily Kos: EXCLUSIVE: Colorado GOP 527 Cooking the Books or Sloppy Chefs?

September 14, 2006

Dems form "September Group" as 527

The New York Times reports: Sensing both political danger and opportunity, a top Democratic operative and a group of major party donors have banded together to deliver a barrage of late advertising and on-the-ground action to secure Democratic victories in November.

The operative, Harold M. Ickes, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton and informal adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and a group of allies are soliciting money for a new organization called the September Fund.

They hope to raise and spend as much as $25 million to influence not only crucial Congressional races but also other campaigns and ballot initiatives at the federal and state level. ...

The September Fund, like the groups Mr. Ickes helped organize in 2004, is set up under a loophole in campaign finance law that allows political groups to escape federal donation limits that apply to party committees and candidates. Such groups, called 527 groups for the relevant section of the Internal Revenue Code, cannot advocate the election or defeat of any candidate but can engage in issue advertising that draws distinctions between the two parties. -- Democrats Form New Group for Fund-Raising and Ads - New York Times