April 23, 2006

"Where Are They Now?" Department: Republicans for Clean Air

The poster child for the need for BCRA's bright line "electioneering communications" provision as applied to disclosure was "Republicans for Clean Air," a mysterious group that ran ads attacking John McCain when he ran in the NY primary against George Bush for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. (The incident is mentioned by the Supreme Court in its McConnell decision, upholding BCRA). Because the ad didn't contain express advocacy (such as "Oppose McCain!"), it was exempt from federal election disclosure requirements.

It turns out that the ads were funded by the Wyly brothers, two Texas oilmen with close ties to George Bush. If I recall correctly, some enterprising reporter figured that out. In any case, Chris Cillizza reports:

    The most interesting names on the host committee [for a May McCain fundraiser in Dallas]? Sam and Charles Wyly -- the wealthy Dallas-based brothers who funded and ran "Republicans for Clean Air," a 527 group that attacked McCain for his environmental record during the 2000 primaries. In the aftermath of his defeat, McCain specifically cited the group in his plea for more and better campaign finance reform, saying the groups were "making a mockery of existing campaign finance laws."

Posted by Rick Hasen at April 23, 2006 07:24 PM