- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

Officials of a defunct pro-Democratic group that was hit with a near-record campaign-finance fine last month hold strong ties to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, documents show.

At least four persons who worked for the America Coming Together (ACT) fundraising group, which the Federal Election Commission recently fined $775,000, work directly for the Clinton campaign or hold top positions with consulting firms hired by it.

In addition, the group’s former president, longtime Clinton aide Harold Ickes, has been identified as a volunteer adviser to the Clinton campaign. In FEC filings, the campaign listed a debt to Mr. Ickes of more than $2,000 for travel-related costs.

Funded with millions of dollars from billionaire George Soros, America Coming Together (ACT) misused about $70 million in “soft money,” uncapped donations that aren’t supposed to be used to urge election or defeat of a candidate, the FEC determined, saying that some of the money was spent on direct-mail and telemarketing efforts aimed against President Bush and Republicans in key battleground states in 2004.

Laurence Gold, ACT’s attorney, said the FEC’s fine marked “the conclusion of three years of politically motivated charges by the Republican Party and ill-conceived allegations by self-styled campaign ‘reform’ groups.”

It”s not clear how much control the former ACT officials have had in the day-to-day fundraising activities of the Clinton campaign, which found itself the focal point of controversy surrounding jailed fundraiser Norman Hsu in recent weeks.

The Clinton campaign did not return phone or e-mail messages this week.

A fundraiser for Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats, Hsu remains in jail without bond on charges he bilked investors in a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has said she is returning money from donors linked to Hsu.

ACT veterans involved in the Clinton campaign include JoDee Winterhoff, former political director for ACT, who has been running Mrs. Clinton’s political operations in Iowa, and Minyon Moore, a onetime ACT official, who works as state and local director for the Dewey Square Group, according to that group’s Web site, www.deweysquare.com.

The Clinton campaign has hired the Dewey Square Group to provide consulting services, FEC disclosure reports show. Miss Moore also has been identified as a senior adviser for the Clinton campaign in a spate of recent accounts in such outlets as National Public Radio, the New York Times and USA Today.

In addition, Mo Elleithee, a Clinton campaign spokesman, had been a spokesman for ACT.

ACT’s onetime chief executive, Steven Rosenthal, now runs a consulting firm called Organizing Group Inc., which is listed as a vendor to whom the Clinton campaign owes more than $100,000, according to a recent Clinton campaign financial-disclosure report.

Mr. Rosenthal said his firm has not raised any funds for the Clinton campaign. He said his company provides telemarketing and related services to numerous clients, the Clinton campaign being just one.

The FEC’s fine of ACT was the third largest in the commission’s history. The settlement, announced Aug. 29, included a provision that the FEC found no evidence of any willful campaign violations by ACT, but regulators nonetheless said they had reason to think that the group broke campaign-finance laws by using prohibited contributions and misreporting expenses. ACT, formed in 2003, suspended operations in 2005 and is preparing to shut down.

The FEC has acted recently against independent groups on both sides of the political divide over their actions during the 2004 elections. Most of the violations center on improper use of “soft money.”

Under the settlement, ACT admitted no wrongdoing and FEC papers say the group said it “acted in reliance on the advice of legal counsel and under the good-faith belief that ACT had complied with the requirements.”

FEC officials said they settled the case, in part, to avoid the time and cost of litigation.

In his e-mail, Mr. Gold also said of the fine, “this resolution should not distract from ACT’s remarkable accomplishments. Founded in July 2003, it swiftly struck such a chord that it was able to undertake the single largest general public voter mobilization campaign in American history independently of any political party or candidate campaign.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide