Democrats allege GOP committee illegally coordinated with outside group
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday April 16, 2008

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Conservative org says charges are trumped up, inaccurate

A Democratic campaign committee filed a federal elections complaint Wednesday alleging that its GOP counterpart illegally coordinated campaign advertisements with an outside political advocacy group.

The complaint cites similarities between two advertisements targeting Democrat Don Cazayoux, who is running for a House seat in a special election next month in Louisiana. The National Republican Campaign Committee ran one of the advertisements, and the other came from Freedom's Watch, an outside group supporting GOP candidates. Both ads use an identical photo of Cazayoux and cite his votes in favor of tax increases, but the groups say they did not coordinate their activities.

"The DCCC is filing this FEC complaint to hold Freedom's Watch and the NRCC accountable for their illegal coordination that is being used to mislead voters about Democratic candidates' positions," said Brian Wolff, Executive Director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in a press release.

To support a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission, the Democratic National Campaign Committee cites a script of the Freedom's Watch ad that contains an "NRCC" citation in its meta-data. The data also apparently shows that a former NRCC employee, who now works for Freedom's Watch, was the last person to edit the script. The DCCC did not immediately release a copy of the Word document.

Microsoft Word, the program used to prepare the script, archives data about previous edits to Word documents. A Freedom's Watch spokesman says its ad vendor used a template that had at one point been named NRCC, but he said the old text was deleted and replaced with an original script.

"I think there are a lot of people who have been toiling for years trying to prove the existence of a vast right-wing conspiracy," Ed Patru, of Freedom's Watch, told RAW STORY Wednesday. "I'm sorry to disappoint them, but this isn't the smoking gun."

He said the vendor Freedom's Watch used previously had the NRCC as a client but has not done any work for them this election cycle.

A DCCC spokesman said there are too many similarities to dismiss them as simple coincidence, and he noted that Freedom's Watch began airing its ad the day after the NRCC ad stopped airing.

"I think it raises serious questions about their coordination issues; voters deserve to know who's behind these ads," DCCC spokesman Doug Thornell told RAW STORY. "We hope that this is will be scrutinized and that the NRCC and Freedom's Watch come clean."

Freedom's Watch dismissed similarities in the ads' content as a case of both organizations' treading ground that is common in conservative political campaigns.

"I think you'd be hard pressed not to find conservatives making an issue about taxes, particularly when you have a candidate who's running as a tax cutter," Patru said. "As far as we're concerned it's not a serious complaint."

The Democrats' complaint also notes that Freedom's Watch recently hired Carl Forti, who previously worked for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and before that was at the NRCC. According to the DCCC, "cforti" was the last person to edit the Freedom's Watch ad. Freedom's Watch says there is nothing nefarious about this because Forti was an employee of the group at the time and hadn't worked at the NRCC for about a year prior to joining them.

An FEC spokesman could not comment on the specific complaint, citing confidentiality requirements. Instead he directed a reporter to the agency's guidelines for filing a complaint. Freedom's Watch and the NRCC have 15 days to file a response to the complaint, after that period has passed the FEC would decide whether to open an investigation into the matter.

The two ads the DCCC accuses the groups of collaborating on appear below.

This ad was purchased by the NRCC:

This ad came from Freedom's Watch: