Obama camp files complaint against pro-Clinton 527

The campaign says the American Leadership Project is "operating outside of, and in violation of, federal campaign finance laws."

By Alex Koppelman

Published April 30, 2008 4:47PM (EDT)

Wednesday morning, Barack Obama's campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about the activities of the American Leadership Project, a pro-Hillary Clinton 527 group.

In a conference call with reporters in which he explained the grounds for the filing, Obama campaign chief counsel Bob Bauer repeatedly drew one analogy that would certainly help the Obama camp sway Democratic voters on the issue, comparing the ALP to the hated Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, another 527 group. Bauer also noted that the FEC has specifically said that an organization like the ALP should be regulated under campaign finance rules if it actively supports the election of one candidate or opposes the election of another. (The 527 loophole is one that's often exploited by groups like the Swift Boaters in this manner to avoid abiding by normal campaign finance rules -- nominally, they're not really supporting a candidate, and are doing issue ads, but for all practical purposes they're working on behalf of their favored candidate.)

In an e-mail, the Obama campaign specifically accused the ALP of "operating outside of, and in violation of, federal campaign finance laws."

There is a question of what the FEC can actually do about this right now -- a fight between the Senate and President Bush over Bush's nominees to the commission has left the FEC essentially powerless to make rulings. Bauer said, however, that the Obama campaign is still asking the FEC to make expedient efforts to resolve this. If not, Bauer said, it's asking that the FEC turn the matter over to the Department of Justice, which has concurrent jurisdiction. He also made it clear that the current complaint is about sending a message, especially for the general election. "The law needs to be enforced to send the ultimate message," Bauer said, "so that as we head into the general election it's clear to other organizations that would do the same that it won't be tolerated."

We've made the full complaint available for download in PDF form here.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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