Hillary’s Swift-Boat Wannabe

Obama camp files plaint
against pro-Clinton org


Wednesday, 30 April 2008

THE Obama campaign stepped up its attack on The American Leadership Project, a pro-Clinton 527 organization that has been running ads in a number of primary states praising the policies of Hillary Rodham Clinton and criticizing those of Barack Obama.
Bob Bauer, the Obama campaign finance lawyer, called the group a “Swift Boat Wannabe,” in a conference call with reporters today. The conference call was convened in response to group’s plan to broadcast television ads in Indiana accusing Mr. Obama of lacking proposals to fix an “economy in trouble.”
Mr. Bauer said the Obama campaign would file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, claiming that the American Leadership Project should register with the commission as a political action committee, a designation that would require it to abide by federal campaign finance restrictions that limit donations.
The Obama campaign has been criticizing American Leadership Project almost from the day it got started. So far, the group has broadcast television ads in Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and now Indiana.
While Mr. Bauer has alleged that the group is breaking the law, American Leadership Project maintains it operates under federal regulations that allow it to engaged in “electioneering communication” in which it can identify federal candidates and talk about their policies, without actually saying “vote for” or “vote against” them.
The group is registered as a 527, so named for a portion of the tax code. Under that classification, it can accept money in unlimited amounts, but must file the names of its donors with the Internal Revenue Service and is not allowed to coordinate with the Clinton campaign.
Jason Kinney, the group’s chairman, said today that Mr. Bauer had “crossed the line distinguishing a credible legal authority from a political hatchet man,” in a posting on Politico.com. Mr. Kinney added that his group has “strictly and carefully adhere to every governing law and regulation.”
In the American Leadership Project ads to be aired in Indiana, an announcer talks about “rising prices,” and “foreclosures,” and then cites newspaper articles saying that Mr. Obama’s economic plan is a “mystery” and ends by asking voters to “call Barack Obama” and ask him to provide a “real” economic plan.
Major funding for the group has come from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which has contributed $1.2 million to the effort. AFSCME is one of Mrs. Clinton’s key union supporters, having already spent $2.3 million on her behalf in the primary races.
While the Obama campaign presses its complaint about the union-backed American Leadership Project, Mr. Obama continues to receive more far support in the form of independent expenditures from unions and other groups than Mrs. Clinton.
Since the primary began, outside groups have made $10 million in independent expenditures on behalf of Mr. Obama, compared with $5 million on behalf of Mrs. Clinton.
One union alone, the Service Employees International Union has spent nearly $9 million on Mr. Obama’s behalf, with ads on his behalf in key primary states, including Indiana, according to federal records. In addition, the union also has $25 million raised in its political action committee that can be used to promote his candidacy.
A new S.E.I.U. ad planned for Indiana says that Mr. Obama opposed the Iraq war from the beginning and says that money spent in Iraq could be used instead on American infrastructure. It ends with “Barack Obama puts America First.”


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