National GOP, state Dems of like minds

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, shocked Republicans and Democrats alike last week when he released his fund-raising totals since January.

On Friday, he announced he had raised $50 million since the first of the year. Of that, $26 million came through small donations over the Internet. In comparison, President Bush has raised $180 million for his campaign, a number that will far overshadow what Kerry will most likely raise when all is said and done. Kerry’s campaign originally set a goal of $80 million for the election but has since said they plan to raise more than $100 million.

While Bush may double Kerry’s fund-raising totals, Republicans are still a little anxious. Adding to their anxiety is a group of Democratic activists who are using loopholes in recently passed campaign finance reform laws to raise money and fund &8220;issue ads&8221; that attack Bush but never directly endorse any candidate.

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The Washington Post reported the Bush campaign is now asking the Federal Election Commission to allow a court to rule on the legality of this matter. Republicans are saying groups such as and the Media Fund have violated bans against soft money by accepting large donations used for what is essentially political advertising.

The irony here is what Republicans on the federal level are trying to stop is pretty much what Republicans in Mississippi have used for years to their advantage.

Take a trip back in time to 2000, when the elections for the state Supreme Court caught the eye of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. During this election cycle, the chamber ran several issue-oriented ads attacking judicial candidates who were perceived as being against tort reform.

The role of the chamber in these elections was two-fold. First, they were helping to offset the large amount of money the trial lawyer lobby was pumping into the race, which is essentially what Democrats are doing on the federal level, offsetting a large bank account Bush has amassed over time. The second reason the chamber was involved, however, was because at that time judicial candidates could not speak out on political issues. The chamber, therefore, was giving candidates a voice in a roundabout manner.

The role of the U.S. Chamber in state elections here and outside of Mississippi provides more irony to what Republicans on the federal level are doing. The U.S. Chamber has been involved in federal lawsuits over their political advertising in Alabama, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. In each of these states &045; Michigan and Ohio being considered swing states for the presidential election &045; the U.S. Chamber promoted issues that helped Republican candidates.

Of course, to say Republicans are the only beneficiaries of &8220;issue ads&8221; that do not fall under the normal scope of political advertising would be completely misleading. Go back to the 2000 judicial election cycle. On Nov. 3, 2000, the Magnolia Political Report (then the Nick Walters Political Report), an Internet clearinghouse for political news across the state, reported Mississippi attorneys Richard Scruggs, David Nutt, Shane Langston and Joey Langston donated a total of $240,000 for ads rebutting those run by the U.S. Chamber. These ads were paid for by an Arkansas firm, and the ads did not endorse any specific candidate.

Whether a court ruling on the federal standards would affect state races is yet to be seen. But for Republicans to act with such indignation is preposterous when the largest business lobby that historically supports conservative-minded candidates has been doing the same thing for years.

Sam R. Hall

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