Ripon Society Seeks FEC Ad Ruling

Posted August 30, 2004 at 5:36pm

WASHINGTON — Rep. Sue Kelly (R-N.Y.) will star in a new television ad praising House Republicans’ handling of terrorism — if the nonprofit organization sponsoring the commercial gets a green light from the Federal Election Commission.

In the proposed ad, Kelly lauds Republicans in Congress who “are working for bipartisan solutions to the challenges we face,” according to a script provided to the FEC by Jan Baran, a lawyer working on behalf of the Ripon Society.

“We’re creating new tools to detect and sever the financial lifelines that support terrorist cells,” Kelly continues, according to the script. “Shutting down the bankrolls of an enemy that hides in the shadows will do a lot to help make our country safer. We need to do more, and we will.”

The Ripon Society, a 501(c)(4) that promotes a moderate policy agenda within GOP circles, has proposed running the commercial on cable television for several weeks later this summer and fall to promote the importance of financial counter-terrorism measures.

Kelly, a member of Ripon’s Advisory Board, also is running for a sixth term in New York’s 19th district — which may leave some viewers confused.

Baran has asked the FEC whether Ripon’s anti-terrorism ad, produced by the GOP media firm Greener and Hook, would violate any sections of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

The society wants to be extra careful that its activities do not trigger regulations covering electioneering communications or coordination.

A complicated web of regulations prevents outside groups from coordinating advertising efforts with federal candidates and campaigns. Rules governing electioneering communications place strict guidelines on certain ads that refer to a clearly identified candidate when distributed to at least 50,000 members of the electorate within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.

Such ads, for instance, may not be funded with any corporate or labor money.

Baran wants the FEC to advise him whether anything about the advertisement — for instance, whether it runs inside a district or outside of it — would make it subject to the electioneering rules.

Kelly’s primary is on Sept. 14. She is expected to win both the primary and the general election easily.

“Ripon intends to disseminate the message on cable television to be viewed by over 50,000 citizens in the 19th Congressional District of New York” and elsewhere in the nation “immediately upon receipt” of an opinion that it is legal, Baran’s letter states.