Skip to comments.Democrats file complaint about ads against Daschle
Posted on 05/15/2003 5:04:34 PM PDT by fightinJAG
Democrats file complaint about ads against Daschle By Denise Ross, Journal Staff Writer
WASHINGTON Television ads that take Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., to task for opposing President Bush's tax-cut package break the new federal campaign-finance laws, Democratic leaders believe.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a formal complaint against ad sponsor Club for Growth with the Federal Election Commission this week. The DSCC contends that Club for Growth uses unrestricted soft money to campaign against an individual candidate, something a new federal law says can be done only with limited hard money.
"There can be no doubt that the ad in question does precisely that which is prohibited," wrote DSCC general counsel Robert Bauer to the FEC.
Club for Growth executive director David Keating called that position "ridiculous" and said the ads do not violate the law.
"They don't seem to know the law over there. They know the law so poorly, they filed a complaint," Keating said. "This is a free country. You're allowed to criticize public officials."
The ads and the FEC complaint are an early salvo in South Dakota's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, an election that so far has a single candidate Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
This confrontation follows last month's fracas over a proposed TV ad campaign that included plans to use down-home "Hee Haw" style humor to underscore Daschle's opposition to the president on certain issues. After news reports of its plans, the Sioux Falls-based Rushmore Policy Council shelved the ad campaign.
With questions over the legality of both the Rushmore Policy Council's plans and this week's complaint to the FEC, South Dakota is shaping up to be the epicenter of early clashes over the new McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform laws.
The Club for Growth ads began running in eastern South Dakota on Monday and link Bush's tax-cut proposal with those of Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, both of which preceded job growth.
"President Bush knows tax cuts create jobs, and that helps balance the budget," the ad announcer says. "But Sen. Tom Daschle opposes the president. Tell Tom Daschle to support the Kennedy-Reagan-Bush tax policy that will bring jobs back to South Dakota."
The DSCC and Club for Growth disagree on whether paying for the ads with soft money amounts to a violation of the law.
"The judge's ruling said genuine issue ads are permitted," Club for Growth's Keating said. "It's not really clear what he meant or where the line is. But I don't think we've come close to the line."
The DSCC's Bauer said that not only does the new law specifically aim to end the use of soft money, given by unnamed donors, to buy "issue" advertising, but judges held up Club for Growth "as exhibit No. 1" as an offender in this area.
"The Club for Growth was the subject of an enormous amount of commentary in recent court decisions. The judge identified it as exactly what it is," Bauer said. "The Club for Growth went off in the wake of and in the face of that decision and did exactly what the court says is prohibited."
Bauer said that because Club for Growth's stated aim is the election or defeat of candidates, it is bound by the same rules as candidates themselves.
"No one would quarrel with the club if it paid for these ads with hard money raised and disclosed like any other political committee," he wrote to the FEC.
The club should register as a political committee with the FEC, Bauer said. The fiscally conservative group is currently registered as a "527" political organization with the Internal Revenue Service.
Keating said the issue centers on the free-speech guarantee in the First Amendment.
"Apparently, their view is, We're public officials. You can't mention our names in broadcast ads.' That's ridiculous," he said. "It comes with the territory. You're an elected official, and people should be able to criticize."
The FEC review process is lengthy, and the matter could be decided by the courts before the FEC weighs in.
Commercials similar to those that target Daschle are running in Ohio, targeting Republican Sen. George Voinovich, who is also up for re-election next year; in Maine, against Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe; and against Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, according to The Associated Press.
On Monday, Club for Growth president Stephen Moore told the AP that the group believes those three senators can be convinced to vote for Bush's tax proposal, and the South Dakota ads aim to underscore Daschle's stance in a state where the group believes President Bush's agenda is popular.
In a lengthy May 2 ruling, a federal three-judge panel struck down one broad ban on election-time political ads but upheld fallback rules that prohibit many groups, including those financed with corporate or union money, from airing ads that promote, support, attack or oppose a candidate.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to review the new campaign-finance laws before the 2004 election.
Contact Denise Ross at 394-8438 or email@example.com
Not only do they not know the law, they don't know the difference between calling for Sen. Daschle to support 'tax cuts' and calling for his defeat.
I'm deeply saddened :)
Do you mean that this:
Congress shall make no law ... or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
will once again have to be respected?
I say just write that on your check to groups like The Club For Growth and your covered.
"My case your Honor is simple, what F'ing part of 'shall make no law' don't you understand?"
That is a case the right lawyer can make and win. Since what you are doing has elements in all four clauses, restricting it, would be blatently unConstitutional. The media circus that can be brought down on this issue of the government creating political prisoners of critics, I think will be enough to make the judiciary fear the people (at least those who know that once the soapbox is taken away, there will be only one way left to be heard).