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Mehlman Pushes for 527 Action

The chairman of the Republican National Committee talked to GOP lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol this week about the strategic importance to the party of “addressing” the role of 527 organizations through legislation.

In separate meetings with Republicans in the House and Senate, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman outlined why he believes the independent political organizations pose a threat to GOP election prospects in 2006 and beyond if they are left unchecked.

Mehlman pointed out that Democratic-leaning 527 groups more than doubled the fundraising of their GOP-leaning counterparts in 2004, creating an “institutional advantage” for the Democrats, according to a PowerPoint presentation obtained by Roll Call.

The GOP chairman further explained that the influence of liberal 527s tipped the overall funding advantage in favor of Democrats in the last election. The two parties’ national committees and presidential campaigns themselves spent roughly comparable amounts, and only when 527s were included did Democrats have an overall fundraising advantage.

Several proposals to deal with the independent political groups have made it through committee in both chambers. One approach being pushed by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Reps. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) would subject 527s to the same fundraising restrictions, including a ban on soft money aimed at federal elections, as other political committees. A competing approach authored by Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Albert Wynn (D-Md.) would leave the groups untouched and instead revise campaign finance laws to allow the parties to take in more money and thus compete with the soft-money groups.

RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt stressed that Mehlman did not endorse any specific legislation but instead spoke in generalities “about how critical it is that we address 527s in order to avoid havoc in future elections.”

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