The chairman of the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) yesterday accused a handful of liberals in Congress of conspiring with television stations around the country to keep his New Right "attack ads" off the air and indicated that he would sue them for about $5 million.
John T. (Terry) Dolan said that 11 local stations had refused to run NCPAC ads this year, but that 14 had accepted them. He didn't have a complete list but said some of the stations were in Dallas, Fort Worth, Tulsa, Billings, Mont., Springfield, Mass., Hartford, Conn., and Baltimore, and broadcast in states where NCPAC has targeted Democrats.
He also claimed to have evidence that, in at least some instances, they were knuckling under to pressure from targets of the ads.
"There is something very, very, very pernicious about television stations who are given the right to do what they do by the good graces of people like Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and then not being willing to run ads criticizing them," Dolan said at a press conference.
He added that he intended to sue Kennedy, Moynihan, Sen. John Melcher (D-Mont.), Reps. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.) and Jim Wright (D-Tex.), and Ed Quick, administrative aide to Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.), along with the stations, for conspiring to violate his First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He indicated that the suit will be filed in about a week.
NCPAC, biggest of the new wave of conservative political action committees, raised more than $8 million for negative advertising in 1980 and has collected another $3.4 million this year. It claims credit for unseating four liberal senators last year.
Spokesmen for the Democrats named acknowledged that their representatives had called television stations, alerting them of the consequences of airing ads which contained errors or distortions, but all maintain there was nothing improper about that.
"Did we have a lawyer contact television stations, you betcha. John Melcher is not going to lay down and let NCPAC run over him," said his spokesman, Mike Fenebock.
Similarly, Bob Shrum, a Kennedy aide, said the campaign lawyer had called three Springfield, Mass., stations, advising them that if they aired inaccurate ads, the campaign would claim right to a free rebuttal.
And Moynihan had his election committee's lawyer distribute a memo to all TV stations in New York describing NCPAC as "unwarranted and unwelcome intruders" and noting that stations that air ads of such groups are not indemnified against libel based on misrepresentations they may contain.
NCPAC lawyers raised similar complaints of a conspiracy to the Federal Communications Commission this fall. The FCC ruled that independent political committees do not enjoy the same "reasonable access" guarantees accorded by the Federal Communication Act to candidates themselves. Dolan said that he will appeal that ruling.