527 Group Supportive of Edwards Backed by Mellon Money
By Matthew Mosk
Caucusgoers in Iowa and New Hampshire have already seen signs of the heavy hand of independent groups trying to influence the outcome of the 2008 presidential contest.
527 donor Bunny Mellon, as she's known, and her husband Paul in a 1967 photo. (The Washington Post)
For the most part, the activity has been financed by labor unions, which have long been a potent force in Democratic electoral politics. But newly public documents filed with the Federal Election Commission this week show there has also been a hefty infusion of private money behind the efforts of Alliance for a New America, a group that is promoting the candidacy of Democrat John Edwards.
The filing shows that on Dec. 19, the Alliance group received $495,000 from Oak Spring Farms LLC, a corporate entity operating from a posh hotel on Central Park South in New York City. Land records and other documents trace the Oak Spring corporation to Manhattan trust attorney Alexander Forger. Forger holds a power of attorney for Rachel Lambert Mellon, who is 97 years old. Other records and published reports show Oak Spring Farms is controlled by Rachel Mellon.
Mellon, known in social circles as "Bunny," is the widow of Paul Mellon and daughter-in-law of industrialist Andrew Mellon. Paul Mellon also had a home in Virginia known as Oak Spring Farms.
The same Oak Springs group made a $250,000 contribution to the Edwards-affiliated One America 527 group in 2006. That contribution prompted a report in the New York Sun which raised questions about the way contributions could arrive anonymously.
Edwards has made campaign-finance purity a major component of his campaign, disavowing contributions from special interests and political action committees, and becoming the only major candidate to accept public matching money.
A message left at Forger's office has not been returned. He told The Sun in 2006, regarding the One America contribution: "I'm simply acting on behalf of somebody else."
Mellon's involvement in the decision to donate to the Alliance group is unknown. But published reports and federal election records show Forger has been a major supporter of Edwards' candidacy. Crain's Business Journal reported in February that Forger and "a group of prominent New York lawyers" hosted a fund-raiser for Edwards at Essex House -- the Central Park South address where his office is located.
Forger has also personally donated $4,600 to Edwards' campaign, according to FEC records.
The group Alliance for a New America reported in the same FEC filing that it made a $798,797 purchase for television advertising.
"We are pleased to help support this organization and have allies who believe that issues like universal health care, the well-being of the middle-class and a strong economy warrant a positive discussion," said Dave Regan, President of SEIU District 1199, a union whose affliliates have been the major sponsor of the group, in response to an e-mail asking about Oak Spring Farms.
Posted at 3:25 PM ET on Dec 28, 2007
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