A Washington-based fund-raising group with ties to top Clinton administration officials and $12 million in seed money from billionaire George Soros quietly has managed a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to win the White House from “those who support the Bush Republican radical agenda.”
The Joint Victory Campaign 2004, which has raised $65 million for two tax-exempt organizations, America Coming Together (ACT) and the Media Fund, has coordinated what it calls an “aggressive and innovative grass-roots program combined with a sophisticated and powerful media to expose the real Bush Republicans.”
It has promised to deliver election victories nationwide to “create a wave of political change.”
Because it does little more than collect and distribute cash, the Victory Campaign has attracted little press attention. But it is a key financial player in an effort by Democrats to unseat President Bush — contributing to massive ad campaigns and voter registration drives in 17 battleground states.
Created by ACT and the Media Fund, the Victory Campaign has become the nation’s largest 527 tax-exempt organization by income and expenditures, dividing its revenue between the two groups.
The group’s treasurer is Janice Ann Enright, partner with former Clinton administration official Harold Ickes at a Washington lobbying firm, the Ickes and Enright Group. Ms. Enright also serves as treasurer for the Media Fund. Victory Campaign and the Media Fund share an office on Connecticut Avenue NW.
The Media Fund was created in November by Mr. Ickes, although he has told The Washington Times he is no longer actively involved with the group. He dismissed Republican accusations that the Media Fund and other groups had improperly conducted voter registration drives and ad campaigns. “Republicans always say that and there is no truth to it,” he said.
Its Web site (www.makeamericaworkforus.com) says the Media Fund is the largest ad-buying organization “supporting a progressive message and defending Democrats from attack ads funded by the deep pockets of the right wing.” Its major contributors, in addition to the Victory Campaign, are Jonathan McHale and Christine Mattsson, executives at a Texas computer security firm, who gave $3 million; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), $2.1 million; Service Employees International Union (SEIU), $1 million; and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), $1 million.
Mr. Ickes served as deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House from 1994 to 1997. He and Ms. Enright were key advisers to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton during her successful 2000 run for the U.S. Senate.
The Victory Campaign, ACT and the Media Fund are legally registered, tax-exempt organizations that can engage in political activities, often through the unlimited use of soft-money donations. The so-called “527” groups, known by their section under the Internal Revenue Service code, seek to influence elections through voter-mobilization efforts and “issue ads” that tout or criticize a candidate’s record.
According to the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity, the Victory Campaign has received more than $65 million in contributions for 2004, spending nearly $60 million so far. It raised $8 million in 2003, spending $6 million that year on television and radio ads.
IRS records show that the Victory Campaign distributed $38.3 million to the Media Fund and $19.4 to ACT, along with about $1.3 million to itself.
Mr. Soros, featured today at the National Press Club in Washington as part of a monthlong anti-Bush speaking tour, has given millions of dollars to help finance Democratic ad campaigns and voter registration drives. With an estimated net worth of $7 billion, Mr. Soros has called the defeat of Mr. Bush “the central focus of my life.”
ACT, founded in August 2003, has raised more than $50 million to defeat Mr. Bush as part of a voter registration coalition known as America Votes. Mr. Soros gave ACT $10 million “to convince people to go to the polls and vote for candidates who will reassert the values of the greatest open society in the world.”
The organization is headed by Ellen R. Malcolm, who also organized Emily’s List, a pro-choice, political-action network, and Steve Rosenthal, former deputy political adviser to the Democratic National Committee, chief adviser to Labor Secretary Robert Reich during the Clinton administration and political director at the AFL-CIO.