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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 8, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 41
Dino's dollars: Republican benefits from millions in undisclosed donations
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Dino's dollars: Republican benefits from millions in undisclosed donations

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Republican Dino Rossi's campaign for the U.S. Senate has benefited from some $2.7 million in independent expenditure ads attacking his opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

Murray's campaign has been helped by a mere $400,000 in independent expenditure ads.

The sheer volume of Republican money coming into the state is not the only difference.

The Democratic group buying ads against Rossi - Commonsense 10 - has registered with the Federal Election Commission and will disclose its donors. The Republican groups will not.

According to federal law, anyone may run an independent expenditure campaign in an election. The only requirement for an independent expenditure campaign is that it must be truly independent - any coordination between the independent campaign and a candidate's own campaign organization is strictly prohibited.

'Independent' campaigns don't have to be independent of political parties or political ideologies, they just can't talk to the candidates' campaign organizations about what they're going to do.

According to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case (January 2010), corporate funding of independent political ads in candidate elections cannot be limited under the 1st Amendment. That means independent groups can spend as much money as they can raise.

PACs - political action committees - have to register with the Federal Election Commission and report who donated money to them and how much. Organizations that are organized as political 'not-for-profit' corporations -501(c)4s - do not. They may raise and spend as much money as they can without disclosing who's giving or how much.

In Washington's Senate race, American Crossroads has purchased $1.4 million dollars worth of anti-Murray ads. American Crossroads is headed by Karl Rove, once known as 'Bush's brain,' the architect of George W. Bush's two successful runs for governor of Texas and two successful presidential campaigns.

American Action Network has bought $750,000 worth of ads against Murray. This group describes itself as 'center-right,' but it's headed by two very right-wing former U.S. senators: Norm Coleman of Minnesota and George Allen of Georgia.

Readers may remember that Allen was forced to drop his 2006 reelection campaign after using a racist epithet to describe an opponent's staffer. Coleman has the distinction of being named one of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress by government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

A group somewhat ironically called Truth in Politics has run $300,000 worth of attack ads against Murray. This group has already filed suit to prevent disclosure of its donors. Its attorney is James Bopp Jr., who represented Protect Marriage Washington in their attempt to conceal the names of Referendum 71 signers.

The National Taxpayers Union also bought $300,000 in ads against Murray.

In contrast to Commonsense 10 on the Democratic side, not one of the organizations running ads for the Republican side will disclose its donors.

The same pattern is being repeated all over the country.

American Crossroads, for example, has spent $5.6 million on media buys so far. According to the Washington Post, the group plans to spend an astounding $50 million in this election cycle.

Democrats are also running independent expenditure campaigns, but Republicans are outspending Democrats by 7-1 in this category nationally. So even though Democratic candidates have an advantage in official campaign funding - the kind that has limits and disclosure requirements - this advantage is blunted by the wave of 'independent' Republican cash from undisclosed sources.

As usual, Dino Rossi's campaign was invited to comment for this story, but they did not respond.

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