Some public interest groups are criticizing the Federal Election Commission’s fines imposed on three so-called “527” groups as too little, too late, and doubt that they will have any impact on stemming the flow of attack ads in 2008. The FEC fined Swift Boat Veterans for Truth almost $300,000 for its now-fabled 2004 hit campaign against John Kerry. They also imposed a $150,000 fine on the liberal MoveOn.org and $180,000 to the League of Conservation Voters. The FEC says that all three groups exceeded the limits of their tax status when they engaged in electioneering that year, mostly through negative campaign commercials.
Will this spell the end of 527s, the IRS term for such independently financed groups? Hardly, according to the Campaign Legal Center.
They wrote on their website: “Not only did the complaints against these 527 groups take more than two years to resolve, but the fines were so small that regrettably many political operatives will see them as no more than the cost of doing business.”
Swift Boaters say that the FEC’s move was an “agressive move to impugn the First Amendment (free speech rights) of citizens,” while there is no statement yet from the other groups.