Obama lawyer warns of 'reckoning' for Clinton 527 donors and staff
Obama lawyer Bob Bauer reiterated the charges made in a memo yesterday that the new pro-Clinton 527, the American Leadership Project, is breaking the law and warned that donors and aides to the group could face criminal liability — an apparent effort to stop the group before it starts, and to scare off other, similar efforts.
Bauer argued on a conference call with reporters that the group's "major purpose" is supporting Clinton and that it's "a very clear runaway case of lawbreaking" because it hasn't filed papers with the Federal Election Commission or reported the money it spent producing its ad and posting it to YouTube.
"There’s going to be a reckoning here," he warned. "It’s going to be rough — it’s going to be rough on the officers, it’s going to be rough on the employees, it’s going to be rough on the donors."
"Whether it's at the FEC or in a broader criminal inquiry, those donors will be asked questions," Bauer said.
Asked how this differs from the pro-Edwards 527 in Iowa, which Obama also denounced, but which he didn't call illegal in these terms, Bauer said he wasn't sure "how to answer that."
His charges seem to hinge, however, on some details that aren't entirely clear: whether the group has already spent more than $1,000 and whether the FEC (which is currently not sitting because of a congressional standoff) will rule that this group is engaging in "express advocacy" for Clinton.
Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the American Leadership Project, laid out his position in a statement yesterday:
The type of 527 we have organized does not intend to engage in express advocacy or the functional equivalent of express advocacy, and so will not qualify as a political committee under the Federal Election Commission rules. It will, however, fund “electioneering communications” — ads that feature a candidate and run within the 30 days before the election — and so will have reporting requirements with the FEC as well as the IRS. (Unlike the Swift Boat ads, we will be fully disclosing our donors to the FEC.)
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