By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Democratic Party officials said they will file a complaint today with the Federal Election Commission alleging that a conservative political group has illegally coordinated its advertising with a Republican Party campaign committee in advance of a May 3 special election in Louisiana.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising and campaign arm for House Democrats, alleges that the script for a television ad purchased by Freedom's Watch, an independent conservative political committee, can be traced to the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Federal election laws prohibit the independent group from coordinating its efforts with the NRCC, the campaign arm of House Republicans, or any political candidate.
The Democratic officials said the advertising script carried an electronic identifier that shows it originated in the Republican committee.
"Freedom's Watch is coming to the NRCC's rescue. The problem is that they're doing it illegally," said DCCC Executive Director Brian Wolff, adding that the group's "own document clearly shows that the script of their ad came from the NRCC."
The DCCC will file the FEC complaint, Wolff said.
The Freedom's Watch ad is scheduled to begin running this week on Baton Rouge television stations. It accuses state Rep. Donald J. Cazayoux, the Democratic nominee to replace former congressman Richard H. Baker (R-La.), of supporting higher taxes.
Cazayoux is in a tight race with former state representative Woody Jenkins for a seat traditionally held by Republicans. Baker resigned in February to take a job as a lobbyist.
The DCCC has a cash advantage of more than $30 million over the NRCC and expects to use some of it on Cazayoux's behalf over the next three weeks.
Patrick McCarthy, the media consultant who wrote the Cazayoux ad for Freedom's Watch, said an innocent mistake caused the document to appear as if it came from the NRCC. McCarthy, who did consulting work for the NRCC for six years, said he pulled up an old ad template from his NRCC days and wrote the Louisiana ad script over it, then saved the file and sent it to the TV stations.
"It's absurd on the face of it. They're grasping at straws if they're saying recycling an old Word document is illegal," said McCarthy, who now works at Designated Market Media.
"The DCCC is delusional," added NRCC spokesman Ken Spain.
Freedom's Watch was launched last summer with a focus on the Iraq war and international issues, but in recent months it has spent money on domestic issues, including a series of ads focusing on illegal immigration before a special election in Ohio. A Republican won that race.
Freedom's Watch is now run by Carl Forti, who spent most of this decade overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars in TV campaigns for the NRCC, and Ed Patru, a former NRCC communications aide.