Campaign Legal Center Press Release--August 10, 2004

Campaign Finance Groups File FEC Complaint Charging "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" Is Violating Federal Campaign Finance Laws

Press Contact: Gerald Hebert, 202-736-2200

The Campaign Legal Center today joined Democracy 21 and the Center for Responsive Politics in filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that that the pro-Republican 527 group, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT), is illegally raising and spending soft money on ads to influence the 2004 presidential elections.

Earlier this year, the three campaign finance groups filed similar complaints with the FEC against two other 527 organizations running ads to influence the presidential election: the Media Fund (a pro-Democratic group) and Progress for America Voter Fund (a pro-Republican group).  These complaints remain pending at the FEC.

"Federal law and decisions of the United States Supreme Court, including the decision earlier this year upholding the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in McConnell v. FEC , make it quite clear that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth must register as a federal political committee and comply with federal campaign finance contribution limits," said J. Gerald Hebert, Director of Litigation for the Campaign Legal Center.

Hebert also said that "by its own admission, SBVT was formed as a result of the presidential candidacy of John Kerry.  The group has acknowledged that its ads attacking Kerry have the purpose of influencing the presidential election."  Hebert added, "Organizations with that self-proclaimed purpose that spend more than $1,000 to influence federal elections, must register as political committees with the FEC.  Federal political committees may only accept 'hard money'—limited contributions from individuals and other federal political committees, and not soft money, which is being used to largely fund SBVT."  A spokesman for SBVT has stated to the press that the group intends to spend $500,000 on ads attacking Senator Kerry's war record.

Hebert noted that "527 groups like SBVT are attempting to replace the political parties as new conduits for injecting soft money into federal campaigns."  Hebert observed that the Supreme Court sharply criticized the FEC in McConnell for granting political parties permission to spend unlimited soft money on voter drives and other campaign activity directly benefiting federal candidates as a subversion of the contribution limits long on the books.  Hebert called upon the FEC to take immediate action so that the 527's operating in this year's election cycle are not added to the list of "hard lesson[s] of circumvention" of federal campaign finance laws.