Partisan grievances over campaign money piling up

AP News
Posted: Oct 22, 2010 5:26 AM
Partisan grievances over campaign money piling up

It's the homestretch to Election Day and the Federal Election Commission's mailbox is filling up with complaints from political rivals about violations of its arcane campaign financing rules.

The latest is from a conservative group contending that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi violated FEC regulations that restrict coordination between candidates and outside political organizations.

The complaint by Let Freedom Ring, a Pennsylvania-based tax exempt, nonprofit organization, cites news reports in which Pelosi vowed to seek help from liberal-leaning organizations. The complaint lists political expenditures by those organizations in the wake of Pelosi's remarks.

The comments by Pelosi and other Democratic officials, followed by liberal group ad spending, make "it perfectly clear that several organizations yielded to the demands of Democratic leaders and staffers," the complaint alleges.

"This complaint is a stunt. It has no connection to reality or the law," said Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for Pelosi. "Every American has the right to voice their opinion. That doesn't mean that they are coordinating some vast left wing conspiracy."

Coordination complaints to the FEC are not unusual as elections draw near. They are difficult to prove, and the FEC has taken action on few of them. That doesn't stop the flow though.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week filed a complaint of its own against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., arguing that ads his campaign aired promoting Arizona Republican House candidates violated coordination laws. These days, with the increased political activity by tax-exempt groups, a share of the complaints have made their way to the Internal Revenue Service too.

In the Let Freedom Ring complaint the FEC would have to determine whether specific ads aired by the liberal groups against Republican candidates or on behalf of Democrats were created at the request or suggestion of Pelosi or other Democratic Party officials.

"They have a burden of proof to demonstrate that their action was taken independently," said Colin Hanna, Let Freedom Ring's president. "That is quite a heavy burden."

Let Freedom Ring, formed in 2004, has not been the major player in this year's election that other Republican-allied groups have been. But this week it began airing a radio ad in opposition to Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Murkowski is running a write-in campaign after losing the Republican primary to tea party-backed candidate Joe Miller, a tea party favorite.

Miller's campaign this week also added to the complaint inbox at the FEC, asking the commission to look into an outside group that has been helping Murkowski's campaign.