Free Enterprise Coalition

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The Free Enterprise Coalition (FEC) was a Republican front group established in 1998 and automatically terminated by the Virginia State Corporations Commission in January 2007: [1]

"No website, no employees, a disconnected phone and a lapsed corporate registraton. Without the 990s, you would be hardpressed to know the GOP funneled $2.8 million through the Free Enterprise Coalition to fund election-related legal expenses between 2004 and 2005," Mrs. Panstreppon wrote May 28, 2007, at TPM Cafe.

Although the Free Enterprise Coalition was registered September 19, 1998, Panstreppon found, "according to its 2004 990, the Coalition had little, if any, activity prior to 2004." Registered as a Virginia State Corporation, with the address 1323 Pendleton Street, Columbia, SC 29201, the corporation was automatically terminated January 31, 2007.

Panstreppon consulted 990s to find that Free Enterprise Coalition board members—"and the number of hours per week they devoted to the Coalition"—included:


Other FEC Affiliations

  • William M. Todd, Esq., Sanders & Dempsey LLP, served as "general counsel for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce" as well as litigation counsel for Free Enterprise Coalition. [3]

Political Contributions / Receipts

Panstreppon found "three instances of GOP candidates disbursing money to a Free Enterprise Coalition in Washington DC in 2006, one as recent as five months ago."

  • "On 12/21/06, Mac Thornberry (R-TX) disbursed $10,000 to the Free Enterprise Coalition in Washington DC for legal expenses."
Panstreppon notes: "Thornberry paid the Free Enterprise Coaltion at the end of December [2006] yet the Coalition let its corporate registration lapse one month later. Seems to me that the Coalition was suddenly in a hurry to go out of business. Why? ... Maybe the Free Enterprise Coalition going out of business has something to do with the burgeoning DOJ scandal."
  • "On 9/14/06, Michael Burgess (R-TX) contributed $10,000 [September 14, 2006] to the Free Enterprise Coalition in Washington DC. The contribution is categorized as 'non-federal'."
  • "On 2/15/06 Kenny Marchant, a candidate for Texas state office, contributed $7.500 to: Free Enterprise Coalition, 499 S. Capitol St, Ste 600, Washington DC 20003."

Additionally, John Linder (R-Ga.) contributed $1,225 for the 2005-2006 Cycle.

Legal Cases

Ohio

On the internet, Panstreppon "found only two references to legal cases involving the Coalition." The first was from a December 14, 2005, press release by the NAACP's Project Vote (Web): "In Ohio, a lawsuit funded by the conservative Free Enterprise Coalition and litigated by the law firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick (Web) collapsed on October 28."

"In March 2005, Congressman Bob Ney held a U.S. House Administrative hearing at the Ohio Statehouse where a general counsel for the brand new voting rights group, the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), told the Congressional committee that the voting problems in Ohio were the result of the NAACP paying people with crack in order to entice them to register to vote. ACVR's general counsel, Mark F. "Thor" Hearne, turned out to be the former national general counsel for Bush-Cheney '04 Inc., with no history of working in a voting rights organization. Hearne relied on a lawsuit filed against the NAACP in Wood County, Ohio 'alleging fraudulent voter registration under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act'," Bob Fitrakis wrote December 30, 2005, for The Free Press.

"Hearne wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2005 claiming there was 'substantial evidence to suggest potential criminal wrongdoing by organizations such as Americans Coming Together (ACT), ACORN and the NAACP – Project Vote.' ...

"Cliff Arnebeck, the attorney representing the NAACP, denounces this as a deliberate racist disinformation campaign to divert attention from Ohio's election theft," Fitrakis wrote. Arnebeck said that the Republicans were "using racist code words"—"crack cocaine". "The Wood County case was withdrawn in June 2005, but not before it was revealed that the plaintiff, Mark Rubick, had been 'indemnified' and held 'harmless' by an obscure group, the Free Enterprise Coalition, with ties to the Republican Party. Signing as the 'Authorized representative' for the Coalition was one Alex Vogel", who served as chief counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and previously as deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee and "as a campaign lawyer for Bush-Cheney 2000 during the election recount." [4]

In a February 2006 update, Fitrakis wrote that Mark Rubick, a "local Republican operative", had filed "an Ohio corrupt practices act suit against the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, ACT-Ohio and ACORN. The suit was later quietly withdrawn after discovery showed that the operatives behind it were linked to the top levels of the Republican Party."

Texas

The second case Panstreppon found was a joint brief amicus curiae in support of Republican Governor Rick Perry "in the Texas redistricting case" filed by the Free Enterprise Coalition and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Panstreppon wrote that, "[a]ccording to a list of case documents on the Jenner & Block website, the RNC also filed a brief amicus curiae on the same day."

Note: Case 05-439 "v. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, et al." was docketed October 5, 2005. The joint brief amicus curiae and the RNC brief were filed February 1, 2006.

Earlier Free Enterprise Coalition

In 1998, there was another Republican front group called the Free Enterprise Coalition that was founded by Tommy Hopper to oppose a state income tax in Tennessee. [5][6]

The FEC "successfully defeated attempts by three governors to pass tax increases, while being outspent ten-to-one." [7]

The Free Enterprise Coalition, c/o Robert P. Odell Jr., President, 1320 Washington Street, Columbia, SC 292901, was listed among Tax Exempt/NonProfit Organizations in April 1999.

Mrs. Panstreppon writes May 29, 2007, at TPM Cafe that "Hopper's Free Enterprise Coalition, Inc. is not the one under investigation here. According to the Tennesee Secretary of State, Free Enterprise Coalition, Inc. was a domestic corporation registered in 1999 and dissolved in 2001."

Contact Information

The Exempt Organizations Information Center (NonProfitData.com) cites the following information for Free Enterprise Coalition:

Free Enterprise Coalition
7704 Leesburg Pike Suite 400
Falls Church, VA 22043-2612

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links