The Green Zone
FEC Complaint Filed Against Group That Ran Ayers Ad
By Matthew Mosk
A leading campaign finance reform advocate has filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service against the group that launched the first television ad linking Barack Obama to William Ayers.
The complaint by Fred Wertheimer of the group Democracy 21 alleges that the American Issues Project initiated a Swift Boat-style attack in violation of McCain-Feingold restrictions.
AIP is a nonprofit formed under section 501c4 of the tax code but has been acting like a federal political committee, and therefore is "subject to the federal contribution limits," the complaint says. AIP received more than $2 million from a single contributor, Texas billionaire Harold Simmons. But under the law, the complaint says, the group should not have been allowed to receive more than $5,000 per year from an individual donor.
"This is a totally spurious complaint," said Cleta Mitchell, AIP's attorney. "We are well aware of the requirements of the law and are in complete compliance with those requirements."
Mitchell disputes the notion that the major purpose of the group has been to derail the election of Obama -- an assertion that, if true, would put AIP in violation of federal tax law.
"The majority of AIP's program expenditures are for nonpolitical activities, including grass-roots organizing, lobbying and issue education in support of AIP's purposes," Mitchell said.
The complaint also goes after a second group, the American Leadership Project, which was formed to help Sen. Hillary Clinton during the waning days of the primaries, when her campaign was running low on cash.
Posted at 11:36 AM ET on Oct 10, 2008
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