Democrats on the board of advisors for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies — the group that has been running the outrageous scare ads against Democratic House members regarding FISA — have been abandoning ship. Since the ads started running, Dona Brazile, Chuck Shumer, Rep. Eliot Engel and even our old friend Rep. Jim Marshall did the right thing and resigned from the ostensibly "non-partisan" organization.
Who does that leave? Well, Zell Miller, and CFL candidate who caucuses with the Democrats, Joe Lieberman.
The board’s director, Cliff May, is a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee and a mainstay on National Review’s group blog, the Corner, where he lays into liberals and Democrats with the subtlety of a meat cleaver. Another Corner contributor from the foundation, Andrew McCarthy, wrote yesterday that "the top Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill" is "roll[ing] the dice with American national security."
It’s not surprising, perhaps, that President George W. Bush addressed the organization in March 2006, and expressed thanks for its work on behalf of his administration. "You have trained Iraqi women and Iranian students in the principles and practice of democracy, you’ve translated ‘democracy readers’ into Arabic for distribution across the broader Middle East, you’ve helped activists across the region organize effective political movements—so they can help bring about democratic change and ensure the survival of liberty in new democracies," said Bush, who thanked May specifically for his introductory remarks.
A spokesman for the foundation, Brian Wise, said he did not know the exact monetary worth of the foundation’s grants, which it mostly receives from the State Department. But he said one grant was worth $487,000 for an unspecified democracy-promotion program. Wise conceded that the foundation had founded the Defense of Democracies organization last week "for tax purposes," adding that "Defense of Democracies [provides] issue advocacy, whereas the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is a policy institute and academic institution."
Brett Kappel, a campaign-finance lawyer in Washington, said it was "not permissible for a 501(c )3 to take federal funds to transfer those to a ( c )4 for the purposes of the (c )4 running attack ads on political candidates," though it was possible that such money could fall into an exception that courts recognize for issue ads. "The involvement of federal funds is a troubling thing," Kappel said. "If someone filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS is going to look very closely at any funds used for any political activity."
Wise said he was "100 percent sure" that no federal funds received by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies went to the Defense of Democracies. "They are completely separate organizations with separate funding sources," he said.
Wise said he did not know if Democrats held all 15 of the targeted congressional districts. When asked, he declined to release the list of districts in which Defense of Democracies placed its ad. "To be honest, because we didn’t look at party affiliation when the ads were created, I really don’t know," Wise said.
This all sounds extraordinarily sketchy. If anyone has seen the ads running in your district, let us know in the comments — it would be interesting to learn if any Republican have been on the receiving end of these ads, if any. Wise also told Greg Sargent that the 501 (c)(4) was formed last week and he didn’t know if any of the money came from telecoms.
Well it sure would be nice to know.
Oh and when Greg Sargent called Slumy Joe’s office for comment? Well, they didn’t get back to him.
I know, color you surprised.