This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 26, 2008 - The Obama campaign has maintained in letters to the Justice Department that the American Issues Project - headed by Ed Martin, the former Blunt chief of staff and funded by a big swift boat contributor - is violating federal election law. Rick Hasen, who writes a respected election law blog, says that Obama may be right.
The ads, tying Obama to a former member of the Weather Underground, William Ayers, have been funded by $2.9 million from Swift Boat veteran Harold Simmons, a Texas billionaire. Simmons made the contributions to American Issues Project, headed by Martin. Martin was the Blunt chief of staff who left office around the time of the controversy about the secrecy of the governor's emails.
Hasen's blogs links to letters from the Obama campaign and responses from the Martin group. The Martin group claims it is a QNL - qualifiied non-profit group - that is acting much like NARAL, the abortion rights group.
But Hasen notes that the Martin group seems not to meet one of the qualifications of QNL's - that only a portion of its funds go toward political advocacy. Martin's group says it "has set aside money to carry out non-election related work to meet the legal requirement." But Hasen questions whether this vague, future plan allows it to qualify. Instead, the Federal Election Committee may decide the group is a political committee, in which case it would be in violation of election law. Simmons' contribution could also be in violation of the law.