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Presidential Candidates Should Ask Supporters to Discontinue 527 Activities; Public Citizen Notes Close Ties Between 527s and Bush, Kerry

Aug. 27, 2004

Presidential Candidates Should Ask Supporters to Discontinue 527 Activities; Public Citizen Notes Close Ties Between 527s and Bush, Kerry

Electioneering Groups Should Be Subject to Election Laws, Group Says

WASHINGTON D.C. – Although President Bush has pledged to join Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in legal and legislative fights to bring Section 527 “independent” groups under campaign contribution limits and disclosure requirements, he has not taken the only effective step this late in the campaign – to ask his supporters to discontinue all 527 activities, including the massive ad campaigns. Bush’s pledge to act against 527s is also weakened by two realities, Public Citizen said today. First, it is too late in the campaign season to legally stop the activities of these groups. Second, even as Bush condemns the activities of all 527 groups, he will soon benefit from two massive anti-Kerry/Edwards advertising campaigns by two 527s with close ties to Bush campaign staffers and funders (see attached fact sheet “Close Ties Between the Presidential Candidates, Political Parties and 527 Groups”).

With Bush’s recent statement and a complaint against a pro-Bush 527 filed by Kerry, both candidates have now challenged the independence of 527s in this election, but both candidates also benefit from groups that have close ties to their campaigns or parties. Public Citizen, however is pleased that Bush at least says he recognizes that a problem exists with the financing of these groups, and it calls on the Kerry campaign also to disavow 527 support and pledge to regulate the groups.

The true test of whether the candidates’ statements are serious commitments or mere campaign hypocrisy will be whether they ask their supporters to discontinue 527 activity now. For the future, both candidates should pledge that next year they will support real legal action, regulatory reform and/or legislation to rein in 527s. “No matter who is in the White House next year, these groups must be brought under the rule of law,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen.

Section 527 groups have taken advantage of a loophole in federal election law regulating unlimited soft money contributions. Public Citizen has urged the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to apply fundraising and stricter disclosure requirements to these shadow campaign groups and strengthen rules prohibiting coordination between 527s and candidate campaigns.

“Groups dedicated to the election or defeat of candidates, including Section 527 groups, should be considered political committees subject to federal election law, and ‘coordination’ should be defined to include the sharing of senior-level consultants, attorneys and advisors between campaigns and outside groups,” Claybrook said.

To read Public Citizen’s fact sheet, click here.

To read Public Citizen’s comments on Section 527 groups and the coordination regulations of the FEC, click here.