A group of conservatives organized to finance an advertising campaign attacking Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Henry Howell announced yesterday it was abandoning its plans and would donate the money it raised to a group supporting the Republican nominee, John N. Dalton.
The Independent Virginians for Responsible Government, which indirectly received part of its money from the National Conservative Political Action Committee headquartered in Arlington, cited Dalton's request Wednesday that independent groups cease operating on his behalf as the reason for their decision.
"John Dalton said earlier this week that he wants to win on his own and that is his right. We are therefore, turning the residual funds raised thus far along with our campaign material and poll data over to Virginians for Dalton . . ." the group said in a prepared statement. Virginians for Dalton is a group of conservative Democrats and independents that is supporting Dalton's campaign.
Neither the Independent Virginians chairman, John T. Dolan, nor its other officers, were available for comment. They also did not say in their statement how money would be turned over to Virginians for Dalton.
When the Independent Virginians opened their fund-raising campaign two weeks ago with a letter attacking Howell signed by Rep. J. Kenneth Robinson (R. Va), the group said it hoped to raise $95,000 for its media campaign. In yesterday's statement, it reported 1,500 contributors but did not say where they live or how much they gave.
The Robinson letter created a furor because it contained statements about Howell's record that were either exaggerated or misrepresented, particularly on the issues of school busing for desegregation, unionization of public employees and gun control. Democrats demanded that Dalton repudiate the independent, unauthorized group; Dalton wrote a letter calling on the Independent Virginians group to "correct" inaccuracies (in the ads) or take them off the air."
Earlier this week, after yet another group had announced plans for an anti-Howell campaign, Dalton asked that all independent groups stop their efforts on his behalf. The issue began to dominate news converage of the campaign, partly because Democrats charged the Independent Virginians with Hitler-type propaganda and partly because five Virginia television stations - all those asked by the Independent Virginians - refused this week to run the commercials.
The other conservative group that had planned to broadcast a series of anti-Howell television commercials, the Americans Against Union Control of Government Political Action Fund, Inc., also has dropped its plans, according to treasurer Roman K. Rice III. The group already gave $5,000 to Dalton's campaign.
"The publicity we got (about running the ads) did more to get our position across than any paid advertising could possibly have done," Rice said, echoing sentiments in the Independent Virginians' statement.
The antiunion group has mailed the results of a questionnaire it sent to statewide candidates to the 17,800 Virginians on its mailing list. The group is an adjust of the Public Service Research Council and has hired conservative mass mail campaign.
Meanwhile, the parent organization of the Independent Virginians, the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC), is having problems of a different sort in Louisville, Ky. The commonwealth's attorney there, David L. Armstrong, said his office is investigating charges that an alleged authorized agent of NCPAC, Charles Campbell, violated the state's Corrupt Practices Act.
Campbell allegedly solicited advertisements form Louisville tavern owners for a program that was to be used at a country music concert Campbell wa arranging to benefit two local candidates, according to Armstrong and local news reports.
Under Kentucky law, corporations are prohibited from donating to political candidates, Armstrong said. The program was never printed, contracts for the concert never signed, and Campbell has not been heard from recently, Armstrong said. About $2,000 paid by businessman for the program advertisements is unaccounted for, Armstrong said.
NCPAC's connection with Campbell is unclear, Dolan, who is also NCPAC's executive director, said yesterday that "we never signed a contract with Campbell." He said that attorneys for NCPAC filed a request for an injunction in Louisville yesterday asking that Campbell be stopped from representing himself as its agent.