CREW Takes Aim at Chambliss Event

Posted May 10, 2004 at 6:11pm

After pressuring Democrats last week to cancel plans for a big-money charity concert during the party’s upcoming national convention in Boston, a liberal ethics watchdog group has trained its eye on a similar charity fundraiser chaired by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) at the GOP convention.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint Monday with the Senate Ethics Committee asking the panel to investigate and prohibit the fundraiser, saying it is a thinly veiled effort to skirt soft-money restrictions imposed by campaign finance law.

Chambliss will host a soiree honoring Georgia Republicans during the Republican National Convention in New York City. The sponsor of that event, AFLAC, is the same sponsor that decided last week to pull the plug on the Democratic convention concert, which was to be chaired by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark).

The GOP event is scheduled to take place Aug. 30. Proceeds from that fundraiser will go to Camp Sunshine, an Atlanta-based facility for children with cancer and their families that is affiliated with the AFLAC Cancer Center. Donor packages will range in price up to $50,000, said a source familiar with the event.

“I lent my name to this because it’s a good cause and it’s the right thing to do,” said Chambliss, who emphasized his years of work on behalf of Camp Sunshine, first as its Representative in the House and now as its Senator.

“If there’s an ethics problem with this, then there’s an ethics problem with virtually everything we do in Washington,” he said.

After AFLAC canceled the Democratic concert last week, a company spokeswoman said the insurance giant had no plans to drop the Republican bash.

“Our goal is to help charities we believe in. As long as the Camp Sunshine event continues to provide a positive benefit to Camp Sunshine, we will continue to move forward,” said spokeswoman Laura Kane.

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, questioned AFLAC’s failure to cancel the event at the Republican convention after receiving negative publicity about the Democratic event.

“AFLAC’s continued involvement in Senator Chambliss’ event after pulling out of the event at the Democratic convention suggests that the company is willing to withstand negative attention for the possibility of currying favor with Republican Members of Congress who have much greater power than their Democratic colleagues,” Sloan said.

Kane said that AFLAC had an attorney who “specializes in these kinds of events review all the materials prior to AFLAC committing to the event and are confident that this event is in compliance with all relevant laws and regulations.”