Alan Reynolds

 Sen. Kerry and President Bush hope to ban political criticism by 527 groups, including one of the tiniest of them -- Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. According to White House press secretary Scott McClellan, "The president said he wanted ... to pursue court action to shut down all the ads and activity by these shadowy 527 groups."

 Press reports quickly described 527 groups as a "loophole" in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 -- sponsored by Arizona Republican John McCain and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold in the Senate, and by Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays and Massachusetts Democrat Marty Meehan in the House. As Supreme Court Chief Justice Rehnquist explained, in his dissent from a deplorable 5-4 decision allowing that 2002 law to stand, "All political speech that is not sifted through federal regulation ... would be a ?loophole' in the current system." In a system with no such loopholes, free speech would be entirely supplanted by regulated speech.

 The 527 organizations date back to 1974 and have been required to report contributions and spending to the IRS since July 2000. There is nothing "shadowy" about them.

 The Center for Responsive Politics categorizes nearly all 527 groups as ideological -- with"Democratic/Liberal" raising $131.5 million so far this year and "Republican/Conservative" raising less than $17 million (www.opensecrets.org). That 8-to1 tilt toward Democratic/Liberal 527 contributions makes it ludicrous that Kerry whined that the Swift Boat Veterans are "funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Republican contributor out of Texas." Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, who is not a major contributor to the Bush campaign, gave the Swift Boat dissidents $200,000. Two other "large donors" gave $25,000. Even $200,000 would be pocket change for big contributors to Democratic 527 groups, such as insurance executive Peter Lewis or real estate heir and Hollywood playboy/producer Steve Bing, both of whom bankrolled even more hysterical anti-Bush TV ads than billionaire George Soros.

 The largest 527 is the $41.6 million Joint Victory Campaign, whose fourth-largest contributor ($4.6 million) is George Soros. This is a joint fund-raising committee run by the second largest 527, the Media Fund, and the third largest, America Coming Together (which received another $5 million from Soros). The next two largest 527 are government employee unions. They are followed by MoveOn.org, whose main contributor is -- you guessed it --George Soros ($2.6 million). Next largest is the New Democrat Network, whose largest contributor is the Media Fund.


Alan Reynolds

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