This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

September 22, 2006

GOP leaders blasts 527s

Groups have no contribution limit, congressman says

By Paul J. Nyden
Staff writer

The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee said Thursday he opposes organizations with no ties to candidates and no contribution limits being able to run advertisements against congressional candidates — Democrat or Republican.

“I don’t like any 527s,” Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., said about the groups that take their names from a section of the federal tax code.

“I don’t care whether they are campaigning for Republicans or Democrats,” he said. “I didn’t even know they were down there [in West Virginia]. I appreciate the information.”

The Economic Freedom Fund, a 527 fund-raising organization that is currently running negative ads against Rep. Alan B. Mollohan, D-W.Va., has gotten support from Mollohan’s opponent, state Delegate Chris Wakim, R-Ohio.

Will Holley, spokesman for Wakim, said Economic Freedom Fund ads help the public understand who Mollohan is.

Bill J. Perry, a Houston, Texas, housing developer, is the sole contributor to the Economic Freedom Fund. Perry, who also gave $4.5 million to the Swift Boat attack ad campaign against John Kerry in 2004, has donated $5 million to the Economic Freedom Fund since Aug. 18.

The group is paying for automatic telephone ads, mailings and television ads against Mollohan.

Reynolds, however, stopped short of saying he would ask such groups to stop their actions in West Virginia. During a telephone press conference Thursday, he explained how the GOP congressional group decided to target Mollohan, who has held the 1st Congressional District seat since 1983.

Reynolds said the NRCC added Mollohan to “our ‘Sitting Duck Program’ which identifies the most vulnerable Democrats” because the congressman “had not raised a lot of money when he started his race ... and the increasing Republican nature of the state made this seat an opportunity for us.”

He declined to answer direct questions about the West Virginia race. Mollohan supporters have raised issues about payouts Wakim admitted making for illegal video lottery machines in his bars on Wheeling Island prior to January 2002. “I will leave that up to the voters,” Reynolds said.

Pressure is building on the Economic Freedom Fund and other 527s, many questioning whether their ads are truthful and whether they have been conducting illegal push polls.

On Monday, Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter sued the Economic Freedom Fund for allegedly making illegal, pre-recorded telephone calls in violation of an Indiana law. The group is also attacking Democrats running for Congress in Indiana, Georgia and Iowa.

Nick Casey, chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party, said several people have asked state officials to investigate the legality of the ads circulated and aired in West Virginia.

Officials with the state Republican Party did not return telephone calls seeking comment about the ads.

Perry is listed as the sole contributor to the Economic Freedom Fund, a Sacramento, Calif.-based 527 group. Named after a section of federal tax law, 527s are not subject to conventional campaign finance restrictions.

James Boyce, executive director of the Patriot Project based in Boston, Mass., said his group is focused on making 527 groups more transparent to the public.

“The Economic Freedom Fund is the mother ship of these groups. They are spending money attacking candidates all around the country,” Boyce said.

One telephone ad the group is using in Northern West Virginia says doctors are leaving the state because of the inaction of Mollohan in not reforming malpractice laws and to “limit lawsuit abuse.”

The West Virginia Board of Medicine reports the number of actively licensed physicians in the state has increased from 3,317 to 3,650 since 1997.

Another telephone ad states Mollohan is under federal investigation for steering a quarter-billion dollars to his district. That call, and television ads bought by the fund, focus on a 500-page April report by the conservative political group National Legal and Policy Center.

Mollohan released detailed financial reports in June he said proved the group had “wildly exaggerated the inadvertent errors on my past financial disclosure statements. They also show that NLPC is dead wrong in implying that I have improperly benefited from my office.”

The NLPC has refused to release the report.

The fund has also mailed four ads to state residents accusing Mollohan of such things as voting against “Amber Alert” bills to protect sexually abused children and failing to support pharmaceutical coverage for seniors.

Mollohan did vote against one “Amber Alert” bill because he thought it was too weak. He voted for another bill with more federal funds that has already created protection programs in 54 of West Virginia’s 55 counties, said Gerry Griffith, a spokesman for Mollohan’s campaign.

The fund’s ads never point out those facts. The fund also routinely refuses to answer any telephone calls.

But Holley called the ads “entirely legitimate.”

“Alan Mollohan needs to explain to voters how he could vote against a bill designed to protect our children from kidnappers and child molesters,” he said.

“I don’t think [the Economic Freedom Fund] are bothered by the truth,” said Doug Moore, who is running the re-election campaign of Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga. “Fact checking is not their strong point.”

Moore said Marshall, Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, and former Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., have all been targeted by the Perry-funded group. Many of the ads it has run against them have focused on issues like gay marriage, child molesters, pornography, abortion and immigration.

“Politics is not for the faint of heart. But there has to be a basis in fact for what you say,” said Moore.

To contact staff writer Paul J. Nyden, use e-mail or call 348-5164.


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