Ney Threatens Democratic 527s With Subpoenas

Posted January 13, 2004 at 1:39pm

House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) responded forcefully to the heads of five Democratic 527 organizations who declined to appear at a November committee hearing convened to look into their fundraising practices.

The groups — Partnership for America’s Families, Democratic Senate Majority Fund, New House PAC, America Votes and America Coming Together — were created under Section 527 of the tax code following the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which imposed restrictions on how soft money could be raised and spent.

Ney called the Nov. 20 hearing in the wake of news reports suggesting that several 527 groups were planning to raise soft money for the purpose of influencing federal elections. While representatives from two GOP organizations appeared at the hearing, the heads of the five Democratic groups declined to do so, instead suggesting in a letter to Ney that he had called the hearing for “partisan political purposes” and that his panel did not have the authority to conduct such an inquiry.

At the hearing, Ney was granted the authority to issue subpoenas to the groups to compel their testimony, though he has not yet done so.

In today’s letter, the Ohio lawmaker wrote that “there can be no serious dispute about the Committee’s legal authority to investigate the activities of 527 organizations in connection with federal elections.”

Ney also reminded the Democratic groups that he had the authority to issue them subpoenas. “Accordingly, you should be taking steps to insure that documents that would be relevant to this investigation are maintained and not destroyed,” he wrote.

Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said his boss is still prepared to issue subpoenas if he does not get a satisfactory response.

“A subpoena would be the last resort for the chairman,” Walsh said. “He would hope that they would come forward voluntarily as the [Republican] groups have done. … If the letter of the law is being followed there should be no reason not to respond.”

Speaking for the New House PAC and the Democratic Senate Majority Fund, lawyer Bob Bauer declined to comment beyond saying, “We got the letter just a little while ago and we’re reviewing it.”

ACT spokesman Jim Jordan said, “Staff and counsel are reviewing Congressman Ney’s letter now. We will, of course, enthusiastically cooperate with any Congressional inquiry that is, in fact, fair, equitable, nonpartisan and not a White House-orchestrated exercise in election-year politics.”

In addition to the letters to the five groups, Ney also wrote to a sixth organization — Grassroots Democrats — to ask whether it is improperly coordinating its activities with state Democratic parties.

Grassroots Democrats did not return a call seeking comment by press time.