Conservative group offered to sell its support

The ACU was reportedly willing to back FedEx on an issue important to the company -- if FedEx was willing to pay up

By Vincent Rossmeier
Published July 17, 2009 8:40PM (UTC)
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It'd be nice to believe that the various political interest groups and lobbyists who claim to be motivated by principle really were so high-minded. But not everything can be "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and sometimes the real motivating factor is cold, hard cash. Now, a prominent group on the right, the American Conservative Union, appears to have been caught trying to arrange a pay-for-play agreement for its backing.

According to a letter obtained by Politico, the ACU offered to sell FedEx its endorsement in a legislative disagreement the shipping company is currently having with rival UPS . When FedEx didn't pay the $2 million to $3 million it had asked for, the ACU sided with UPS.


In exchange for the money, the letter sent to FedEx promised that the organization would put out "op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors" in support of FedEx's position. The ACU describes itself as "the nation's oldest and largest grassroots conservative lobbying organization" and its board of directors boasts notable Republicans like Grover Norquist, John Bolton and Tom DeLay.

ACU has denied taking any money from UPS, and has reacted angrily to Politico's story. In a statement, its executive vice president, Dennis Whitfield, said:

An article containing a false headline has been published by Capitol Hill newspaper Politico today regarding an issue with expansion of the National Labor Relations Board.

This article concerns two letters; one issued by ACU and another issued by a separate organization.

Mr. David Keene’s name was on a letter prepared by another organization. This was a personal decision on his part and he was not representing ACU at the time. No permission was given by ACU, and no logo was provided by ACU, to the organization who issued the letter in question.

ACU’s policy position on this issue has not changed and it will not change.

ACU’s positions on important policy issues have never been for sale ....

No contributions, to date, regarding this issue have been given or promised to ACU from any organization mentioned in the Politico article.

Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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