527s Snub Ney, Threat Of Subpoenas

Posted January 23, 2004 at 5:58pm

A group of Democratic-leaning soft-money organizations has again rebuffed House Administration Chairman Bob Ney’s (R-Ohio) attempts to collect more information about their activities this election cycle, increasing the likelihood that Ney will soon issue subpoenas requiring the groups to testify before his panel.

In a letter sent to Ney on Friday, representatives from America Votes, the Partnership for America’s Families, America Coming Together, the New House PAC and the Democratic Senate Majority Fund asked the Ohio Republican for further clarification of what information he is seeking from them. And they again assailed Ney for what they and their Democratic allies in Congress see as a partisan investigation designed to scare potential donors from giving to the groups.

“The full record raises fair concerns about a coordinated attempt to damage us with allegations of misconduct, without any supporting evidence, and to do so in large measure, if not exclusively, with partisan effects in mind,” the groups wrote in their Jan. 23 letter. That letter was in response to a Ney letter, sent to the organizations Jan. 13, asking that they provide the committee with any documents they have covering soft-money donations, as well as records of any contacts they have had with federal candidates and lawmakers.

Aides to Ney cautioned that as of Friday he had not made any final decision about whether to issue subpoenas, although it appears more and more likely that he will do so.

“We are disappointed that they continue to obstruct our inquiry,” Paul Vinovich, majority staff director for House Administration, said of Friday’s letter. “We regard this response as a delaying tactic geared to allowing them to continue to raise and spend soft money to influence federal elections for as long as possible — which is particularly disappointing given that they are aligned with the party that said it wanted to get soft money out of politics.”

The Democratic groups had refused to attend a November hearing of the House Administration Committee designed to review the operations of “527” nonprofit organizations, which are governed by Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Service code and can collect and spend soft money to influence federal elections.

Republicans point to the fact that two of the Democratic-affiliated groups that had been asked to appear, the New House PAC and the Democratic Senate Majority Fund, raise both hard and soft money and thus may violate the spirit — if not the letter — of 2002’s Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.