Bush ’04 Slams Donor Story

Posted June 23, 2004 at 6:56pm

President Bush’s re-election campaign Wednesday dismissed as “completely inaccurate” a report that it has mounted an effort to steer soft-money contributions to state GOP parties in order to counter Democratic-leaning “527” groups.

Bush-Cheney campaign officials confirmed they are encouraging their donors to support get-out-the-vote efforts by contributing hard money directly to the Republican National Committee and state GOP parties. The RNC hopes to raise roughly $50 million in hard money for GOTV activities at the state level this cycle, according to GOP sources.

But the Bush-Cheney campaign said the assertion that anyone with direct ties to the campaign was involved in any activities relating to soft money, including soliciting, steering, directing or encouraging such contributions to state GOP parties, was “totally false.”

“The factual representations in the article, the basic premise of the article, are flawed beyond comprehension and dead wrong,” said Ben Ginsberg, counsel to the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign. Ginsberg was referring to a story in Wednesday’s edition of Roll Call. That article said Bush Cheney ’04 officials — through outside fundraisers — had asked wealthy Republicans to give soft money to state GOP parties.

“As a matter of law, people on the campaign or associated with the campaign or agents of the campaign can’t raise [soft] money for state parties, so we don’t,” Ginsberg said.

Ginsberg added: “Beyond that, the article is stupendously inaccurate and flawed because even if it was true, the [soft] money could not be spent on any voter registration or get-out-the-vote effort in this election, so why in the world would we do it?”

Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, soft-money contributions are illegal at the federal level, and any attempt to solicit or steer such contributions by anyone involved in a federal campaign is also illegal.

State parties also cannot use soft money to pay for any election activities within 120 days of a federal election. That cutoff date will be reached in early July.

Ken Mehlman, campaign manager for Bush-Cheney ’04, reiterated that the campaign’s fundraising efforts focus exclusively on hard-money donations, and added that the campaign complies fully with all federal laws regulating its fundraising activities.

Mehlman said the Bush-Cheney campaign “is working with the Republican National Committee and with state parties all across the country to raise hard dollars for an aggressive GOTV effort.”

Mehlman noted that Democratic-leaning 527 groups, which can raise soft-money funds in excess of federal limits, have vowed to spend at least $100 million to defeat Bush, and added that he was aware that there have been efforts among some Republicans outside Bush-Cheney ’04 to get their own 527s up and running to counter the Democratic groups.

But Mehlman reiterated that neither he, nor anyone else at the campaign, had anything to do with the GOP-leaning 527s. “I am not raising any money for any 527 groups,” said Mehlman. “But I am not discouraging people from giving to [GOP] 527s either.”

Several Republican fundraisers with extensive but unofficial ties to Bush-Cheney ’04 stood by the original assertions they made to Roll Call — that they are being encouraged to steer donors to GOP state parties rather than 527s. One Bush fundraiser said that Bush-Cheney aides and fundraisers “were not actually asking for money” — which would be illegal — but were “encouraging people to get involved with the state programs.”