Senators’ Families Help Fund 527

Posted May 25, 2004 at 2:55pm

The spouses and kin of several Democratic Senators have been pumping thousands of dollars into The Media Fund, the controversial 527 group spearheaded by former Clinton aide Harold Ickes, Federal Election Commission Records show.

The group — which touts itself as the “largest media buying organization supporting a progressive message and defending Democrats from attack ads funded by the deep pockets of the Right Wing” is spending millions of dollars on television advertising to try and boost Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) presidential bid.

It has come under attack from both Republicans and campaign watchdogs such as Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer, who contends that such activities amount to illegal spending by what he calls “shadow party committees.”

Among those supporting Ickes effort is Richard Blum, the San Francisco real estate mogul who is married to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D).

He made a $100,000 contribution to the group on May 19 as the group was spending hundreds of thousands more airing an anti-Bush ad titled “Corporate Headquarters” on several Toledo, Ohio television stations.

“Instead of protecting pensions, George Bush supported a bill giving Enron huge new tax breaks,” the 30-second spot begins, as it depicts workers in hard hats setting up corporate logos for companies such as Enron and Halliburton on a lawn.

“Instead of giving seniors real prescription drug benefits, Bush gave drug companies billions in his Medicare bill. Instead of fighting corporate corruption, George Bush gave no-bid contracts to Halliburton — a company caught overcharging for fuel and food for our soldiers in Iraq,” the announcer continues. “George Bush: he’s turned the White House into corporate headquarters.”

The screen then pans the supposed front of the White House, which is plastered with signs for General Electric, Exxon, Enron, Pfizer, Fox and Halliburton, and topped with the glowing neon sign reading “Corporate Headquarters.”

Former CNN political reporter Brooks Jackson, who scrutinizes campaign ads on a non-partisan basis under the auspices of Annenberg Political Fact Check, has criticized the commercial as distorting the facts. “It’s hard to cram this much distortion into a mere 30 seconds, but Ickes’ group is up to the task,” Jackson said of the spot, which aired in Louisiana, Missouri, Oregon, Nevada and Ohio at a cost of approximately $750,000 over the past week and a half.

Anne Bingaman, a lobbyist, wife of Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and a former assistant attorney general, also gave $2,500 to The Media Fund on May 19, less than a week after the FEC declined to issue any new rules that would have hampered the activities of such 527 groups and made them subject to federal campaign finance regulation.

Several relatives of Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) — including two aunts and his father — have also donated to The Media Fund over the past several weeks. Mary Lee Lowe Dayton contributed $7,500 to the advertising initiative on May 19 and another aunt, Julia Dayton, gave $5,000 to the effort in late April.

Bruce Dayton, the Senator’s father, also chipped in $5,000 in early April.

While The Media Fund has been drawing the majority of its funds through transfers from another 527 group known as the Victory Campaign 2004, new electioneering communications reports filed with the FEC show that group has been also raising substantial contributions from Hollywood liberals like Chevy Chase and Paul Newman.