527s Attempt to Appease Ney, Avoid Subpoenas

Posted February 2, 2004 at 6:29pm

Signaling the first potential break in a four-month struggle, the leaders of five Democratic-leaning soft-money organizations agreed Monday to voluntarily turn over some documents to House Administration Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) outlining their activities this election cycle.

But it is unclear if the information the groups intend to provide is already available publicly, or if the gesture will stave off subpoenas Ney has threatened to issue to the organizations. The five groups plan to raise tens of millions of dollars to help elect Democratic candidates and incumbents this November.

In a letter to Ney late Monday, representatives of America Votes, America Coming Together, Democratic Senate Majority Fund, Partnership for America’s Families and the New House PAC again characterized the chairman’s probe of so-called 527 organizations “as a partisan abuse of government powers in violation of our constitutional rights.”

However, the groups did say they were assembling some documents for Ney and asked for additional time to compile their records. Ney had wanted the groups to respond to his latest attempt to gather information from the organizations by Monday. They are asking for another week to comply.

The Democratic groups have been in a slow-motion showdown with Ney since the fall, when their representatives refused to attend a Nov. 20 House Administration hearing on organizations that file under Section 527 of the federal tax code. Ney has since threatened to subpoena the heads of the five organizations, one of which is closing soon, to force them to appear, bringing heavy protests from Democrats on House Administration.

“ACT and America Votes are prepared to assist Congress in any legitimate, nonpartisan and appropriate examination of the impact of [the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act] on the workings of our political system,” said Jim Jordan, spokesman for the two groups. “To that end, ACT and America Votes will voluntarily produce for the House Administration Committee documents and data that address legitimate questions from Congress about how we are organized and funded pursuant to federal campaign law.”

Jordan added: “We will not, however, relinquish internal communications that are, by contrast, purely strategic and political in nature and which are obviously covered by the First Amendment.”

Ney’s staff had not seen the groups’ letter at press time and had no comment.