- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Conservative political organizations are at odds over which Republican to support in the Pennsylvania Senate primary between incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Patrick J. Toomey.

The Mainstreet Individual Fund, a New-York based political organization of wealthy businessmen, has spent $200,000 in support of Mr. Specter. The group’s two-week television-advertising blitz and voter-registration drives begin today in 23 counties statewide.

Fund spokeswoman Sarah Chamberlain Resnick said the group has spent $100,000 on TV ads and will phone 175,000 centrist Republicans for a get-out-the-vote campaign, targeting those who switched parties to vote for Democrat Gov. Edward G. Rendell in 2002.

But Mr. Specter, who is a staunch advocate for campaign-finance reform, has said he doesn’t want help from any political groups outside the state.

“I think Mr. Specter would prefer we not do this, but it is such a small amount compared to what Club for Growth is spending for Toomey. I mean Toomey is almost a puppet for them,” Miss Resnick said.

The D.C.-based Club for Growth is a nonprofit conservative, pro-tax-cut group that says it has raised $1 million for Mr. Toomey and has spent about the same on negative ads.

Mainstreet, however, is a nonprofit group committed to electing centrist Republican candidates, such as Mr. Specter, who is fiscally conservative but moderate on social issues such as abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

“We felt it was time to stand up for Specter, because our goal is to protect incumbents,” Miss Resnick said. “The hope of our organization is to convince Club for Growth that this infighting is not helpful to the Republican Party.”

Miss Resnick said if Mr. Specter loses in the Pennsylvania primary, it almost ensures that Democrats will win his Senate seat, “and we cannot afford to lose any Republicans in the Senate.”

Both groups qualify for tax-exempt status under section 527 of the IRS tax code. Recently 527 groups have come under fire from Republican lawmakers for violating the spirit of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act.

The act was passed in 2002 to curtail big corporate and labor contributions from corrupting the political process. However, numerous wealthy businessmen and blue-collar organizations have formed private groups whose contributions are not limited by the $2,000 per-cycle federal regulations, but are prohibited from coordinating their efforts with any campaign or political action committee that is regulated.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is expected to review whether the 527 groups represent a loophole in the law this month and make its ruling public by late May or early June.

Miss Resnick said board members for the Mainstreet Fund are watching the FEC developments closely.

“And that is one reason we are spending money now, although we are not really being targeted — the ones being targeted are mostly Democratic 527s who are talking about raising $20 million. We would be affected by the decision,” she said.

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