Anti-Kerry group slapped with largest-ever election law fine
Michael Roston
Published: Thursday March 1, 2007
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The day after Senator John Kerry confronted a financier of one group that smeared him in the 2004 election, the Federal Election Commission reached its largest ever settlement on a fine for another group that attacked the Vietnam veteran in the last presidential race.

Today's edition of Roll Call is reporting that the Progress for America Voter Fund has been slapped with a $750,000 fine. Roll Call's Matthew Murray writes that the settlement was reached by the Progress for America Voter Fund and the Federal Election Commission yesterday. The conservative group raised $45 million from prominent Republican donors in the 2004 election cycle and spent $30 million on advertising during the race.

At issue were advertisements from the Progress for America Voter Fund that questioned Senator Kerry's ability to lead the military. These ads fell outside the range of what is permissible for a "527" non-partisan organizations that may not work to "influence the selection, nomination, election, or appointment of any individual to public office or office in a political organization.”

"Through its public statements, activities, and solicitations for contributions, PFA-VF clearly established that it was a Federal political committee during the 2004 campaign,” Murray quotes the agency as concluding.

Progress for America's legal counsel told CNN that the FEC is coming up short in offering uniform regulations for such groups.

"Despite Congressional pressure to impose some set of rules or provide guidance for so called '527' groups, the FEC still refuses to do so," Benjamin Ginsburg said.

Yesterday, RAW STORY reported on Senator Kerry's confrontation with Sam Fox, a Bush administration nominee to be ambassador to Belgium, who provided $50,000 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, another 527 group. In December that group and two liberal organizations were collectively fined $630,000, in contrast to yesterday's $750,000 fine for a single organization.

The full Roll Call story can be accessed at the paper's website by subscribers. An excerpt is provided below.

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The agency fined the Progress for America Voter Fund $750,000 after determining that the group had functioned like a political action committee without registering to become one.

“This settlement demonstrates once again that the commission is serious about enforcing the campaign finance law,” said Robert Lenhard, the FEC’s Democratic-nominated chairman. “It should now be clear to organizations that want to be active in the 2008 cycle that the activities we saw in this case are prohibited under the law.”

Progress for America raised roughly $45 million during the 2004 cycle from Alexander Spanos, Bob Perry, T. Boone Pickens and other prominent Republican donors. The group, which ranked fourth in size among 527s that cycle, used the money to purchase more than $30 million worth of radio, television, direct mail and Internet advertising — some of it questioning Kerry’s ability to lead the military.

Such ads may have been allowed, according to the commission’s ruling Wednesday, but only if the group had registered as a political action committee.