Club for Graft

From Holden:

The Federal Election Commission is suing the Club for Growth.

The Federal Election Commission filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington against the Club for Growth, the first case of its kind to arise from high-dollar fundraising during the 2004 elections. The pro-Republican group spent at least $21 million in the 2003-2004 election cycle.

The FEC contends the club spent enough in federal races to require it to file with the commission as a political committee and to follow contribution and spending limits. It wants the court to fine the group and order it to comply with campaign finance rules.

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FEC Vice Chairman Michael Toner rated the case “one of the most important suits the commission has brought in recent years.”

“At stake is whether Club for Growth will be able to continue raising and spending millions of dollars in soft money for activities influencing federal elections,” said Toner, a Republican.

The lawsuit is the first to result from several complaints filed against pro-Republican and pro-Democratic “soft money groups” during the last election, and it could determine whether the commission can rein in such groups without new congressional legislation or FEC rules.

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The FEC investigated the club’s fundraising and spending after the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee complained to the commission about it.

The DSCC complaint stemmed from an ad the club ran in the 2003-04 election cycle against then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., over his opposition to a tax-cut proposal. Daschle lost to Republican John R. Thune in last November’s election.

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The complaint says the club told prospective donors their money would be used to help elect or defeat specific candidates, and that it raised more than $4 million last year alone from donors who exceeded the $5,000 federal contribution limit. Of that, roughly $3 million came from just 14 donors.

The club spent more than $1 million in the past three elections on ads targeting specific campaigns _ often going so far as urging people to vote for or against candidates _ and raised more than $9 million during that time that exceeded federal limits, the lawsuit says.