- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

President Bush has few supporters stronger than Stephen Moore, the economically conservative president of the Club for Growth. Indeed, Mr. Moore’s organization played a key role in lengthening the president’s coattails by expanding the GOP’s majority status.

In addition to its lobbying arm, Mr. Moore’s multifaceted organization operates both an ideological political action committee similar to EMILY’s List and a 527 political group that engages in issue advocacy principally through television and radio ads. In the recent election, the Club for Growth’s PAC directed about $12 million in bundled hard-money contributions from its 30,000 members to low-tax, small-government conservative Republican candidates engaged in closely contested congressional races. The club also spent as much as $15 million on issue ads “to change the policy debate.”

The club was active throughout the two-year electoral cycle. Long before White House-backed Republican operatives in Washington were ill-advisedly seeking in early 2004 to shut down the free-speech activities of 527 organizations, the club’s 527 in the summer of 2003 was running ads throughout South Dakota — sharply contrasting Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s at-home image with his Washington persona. Last week, Mr. Moore said that 19 of the 24 congressional candidates backed by his organization won their “highly competitive” races.

Regrettably, Mr. Bush appears determined to curtail the free-speech rights of 527 organizations that use soft-money contributions to finance issue-advocacy ads. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said on Monday that the president was “committed” to eliminating soft money “through the courts.” Failing there, Mr. Bush “would work with Sen. [John] McCain and look at legislative ways,” Mr. McClellan promised.

“[W]e agree with George Bush on a lot of things,” Mr. Moore told the Annenberg symposium, “but we think he’s just dead wrong on this.” Mr. Moore is right.

Using estimates for only five major 527 groups, the Center for Responsive Politics conservatively projected that presidential-related 527 spending would approach $200 million in 2004, when the presidential-campaign cost would total an estimated $1.2 billion. Given that the federal government will spend more than $10 trillion over the next four years, it seems to us that the $1.2 billion election price tag, including hundreds of millions in 527 money, is anything but excessive. As Mr. Moore noted, Americans spend $2 billion on Halloween candy.

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