527 Organization - 2004 Election Controversy

2004 Election Controversy

George W. Bush was elected to a second term in the 2004 presidential election, when even more campaign donations were via a 527 organization. One organization, Swift Boat "torpedoed" Massachusetts Democratic Party (United States) John Kerry presidential campaign, 2004. A reported $9.45 million came from just 3 private individuals. Putting those amounts in perspective, liberal contributor George Soros contributed $23.7 million to 527s, and Peter Lewis of Progressive Insurance contributed another $23.2 million dollars to 527s in 2004.

Under federal election law, coordination between an election campaign and a 527 group is not allowed. The heavy spending of key 527 groups to attack presidential candidates brought complaints to the Federal Elections Commission of illegal coordination between the groups and rival political campaigns. These formal complaints included:

  • On May 5, 2004, the Republican National Committee accused MoveOn.org, The Media Fund, America Coming Together and America Votes of coordinating their efforts with the John Kerry campaign.
  • On August 20, 2004, John Kerry's campaign accused Swift Boat Veterans for Truth of coordinating their efforts with the George W. Bush campaign.

Several people who were involved with both organizations removed themselves to avoid the appearance of conflict. Attorney Benjamin Ginsberg pointed out that it was not uncommon or illegal for lawyers to represent campaigns or political parties while also representing 527 groups. For example, Washington attorney Joe Sandler simultaneously represented the Democratic National Committee and a 527 group airing anti-Bush ads, the MoveOn.org Voter Fund.

In 2006 and 2007 the FEC fined a number of organizations, including MoveOn and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, for violations arising from the 2004 campaign. The FEC's rationale was that these groups had specifically advocated the election or defeat of candidates, thus making them subject to federal regulation and its limits on contributions to the organizations.

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