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PFA Receives $1 Million From Head of Univision

The conservative soft-money organization at the forefront of the efforts to overhaul Social Security and confirm Supreme Court nominee John Roberts received a $1 million contribution in April to fund its efforts, according to reports recently filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Progress for America raised $1.3 million from Jan. 1 to June 30, the vast majority of which came from a seven-figure check cut by Jerry Perenchio, CEO of the Spanish-language television network Univision. Last October, Perenchio donated $3 million to PFA.

Even with Perenchio’s donation, the group remains far from its pledge to spend $18 million on ads aimed at confirming Roberts. In the first six months of 2005, PFA spent roughly $5 million.

“Interest by PFA’s donors remains sharp,” said Jessica Boulanger, a spokeswoman for the organization. She would not offer details of the group’s fundraising since June 30.

PFA has fared better recently than America Coming Together, the largest pro-Democratic 527 operation during the 2004 presidential election. ACT announced recently that it would shutter its operations at the end of August.

ACT and the Media Fund, which served as the advertising arm of the dual 527s, raked in nearly $200 million during the 2004 cycle — far outdistancing the dollars raised by conservative soft-money groups such as PFA ($38 million) and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ($28 million).

Chris LaCivita, a Republican consultant who has worked closely with conservative 527s, explained the financial turnaround as a byproduct of the last presidential election.

“Two Republican groups came on the scene late, spent one third of what Democrats did and had a much bigger impact on influencing the issue agenda,” LaCivita said. “Donors have now decided to go ahead and write those checks.”

Aside from Perenchio’s $1 million contribution, PFA received four other donations in the first six months of 2005.

Cintas Corp. Chairman Richard Farmer chipped in $200,000; David Hanna, a California businessman, gave $75,000.

Solutions America, the federal political action committee of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), contributed $10,000 to PFA as well.

Under IRS law, 527s can accept unlimited donations from individuals but must regularly report those contributions as well as any expenditures.

During the first six months of 2005, PFA spent $4.7 million, more than $3 million of which was aimed at supporting Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) move to abolish filibusters on judicial nominees.

Democratic media consultant Jim Jordan said that the relative financial success of PFA proves that “ads are still sexier to donors than field [operations].”

Under that line of thinking, ACT struggled to convince donors to pony up for grass-roots efforts, a mundane but necessary part of winning elections, while PFA has enjoyed more success by offering large contributors almost instant gratification through national television campaigns.

Another pitfall for ACT was that it, unlike PFA, had a hard-money component, which was registered with the FEC, in addition to its soft-money 527. Under an FEC ruling that went into effect in January, any group with both hard- and soft-money accounts must use hard dollars to pay for half of its activities.

With hard-dollar contributions at a premium, the idea of raising tens of millions in hard money simply to fund daily operations turned ACT into an implausible business model, several Democratic sources said.