Progress for America Voter Fund

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

The Progress for America Voter Fund (PFA-VF), affiliated with Progress for America, Inc. (PFA), was formed May 27, 2004. [1] PFA-VF states on its website that it is "a nonprofit organization under section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code" and a "conservative issue advocacy organization dedicated to setting the issue record straight about these critical issues."

After the Federal Election Commission decided May 13, 2004, to postpone regulating so-called 527 groups (named after the section of the tax code under which they are organized), PFA spun off a 527 committee called the Progress for America Voter Fund (PFA-VF), which ended up pouring $28.8 million into supporting George W. Bush in 2004. [2]

History

In late 2003, Tony Feather, the former political director of Bush-Cheney 2000 who operated PFA, stepped away from PFA, thus complying with the letter of the law forbidding 527 organizations from coordinating their activities with election campaigns. His firm, Feather Larson Synhorst-DCI (FLS-DCI), went on to do campaign work for Bush, receiving $12.8 million from the Republican National Committee and $3.6 million from Bush-Cheney '04 Inc.. [3]

The National Journal reported that PFA had morphed from an organization that built public support for the president's agenda into an "organization that will use soft-money donations for advertising and grassroots efforts to boost Bush and other GOP candidates in 2004 races." The Journal wrote that PFA hoped "to pull in donations of between $40 million and $60 million for television ads, direct-mail and Web-based outreach, and other efforts on issues ranging from the economy to national security." Management of PFA was handed over to Chris LaCivita, an employee of FLS-DCI’s sibling company DCI Group. LaCivita took over as PFA’s executive director while another DCI employee, Brian McCabe, became president of the Progress for America Voter Fund.

Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity pointed out in March 2004 that election law specialist Ben Ginsberg, then counsel for PFA and a partner at the law and lobbying firm Patton Boggs, was "also the chief outside counsel to the Bush campaign." [4]

During the fall of 2003, reported Peter H. Stone of the National Journal, Ginsberg talked "across the country to prominent fundraisers," asking them to serve on PFA’s advisory board and to rope in large soft-money contributions. In August 2004, Ginsberg chose to resign from the Bush campaign after it was revealed that he had provided counsel to another GOP-friendly 527 group — Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

White House / RNC "unofficial extension"

"... Progress for America often functions like an unofficial extension of the White House, advancing the president's policies alongside the Republican National Committee," Glen Justice and Aron Pilhofer reported in the November 14, 2005, New York Times.

"The group's campaign arm, the Progress for America Voter Fund, is one of the so-called 527 committees, which spent tens of millions of dollars on both sides to influence last year's elections. Though the groups can collect unlimited contributions, they were barred from coordinating with campaigns. But in the postelection season, there is no prohibition against coordinating with the White House and the party, and Progress for America has become one of the strongest players to emerge from 2004," Justice and Pilhofer wrote.

The "527 committee" Impact

"The upshot of this legislative and regulatory palsy was to turn the 2004 presidential election into a battleground for billionaires, as Democrat richies like financier George Soros funded groups like the Media Fund and Republican richies like Ameriquest owner Dawn Arnall funded groups like the Progress for America Fund." [5]

"At the end of the day though, each party committee and at least one presidential campaign was, to a significant degree, identified with a major 527 group (America Coming Together and Progress for America, respectively) that looked like it would be active in future campaigns." [6]

"Moreover, the corporations that PFA initially looked toward as a main source of funds proved reluctant to contribute, often citing counsel warnings from counsel about the uncertain legality of 527s ... In response, PFA hired three 'traditional Republican fundraisers.' Ensconced at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel during the Republican convention in New York, it succeeded in enlisting not only funds, but also fundraising assistance from two of President Bush’s most ardent financiers: Alex Spanos and Dawn Arnall. Most important, it received the ultimate wink and nod from the Republican Party and the Bush campaign." [7]

2004 Election cycle spending

PFA-VF raised $44,949,178 and had spent $35,631,378 in 2004. A breakdown of PFAVF’s spending shows that the vast majority of its money went to ad buys. Mentzer Media Services, Inc. received $26.6 million from the group for ad buys. But the second and forth top recipients of PFAVF money were companies affilated with Tom Synhorst. FYI Messaging got $1.66 million for direct mail services, and TSE Enterprises (which hosts all these organizations’ websites as well as ashleysstory.com), got $907,955 for web services. Another top recipient of PFA-VF money was DCI Group, which got $672,827 for consulting.[8] Other recipients of PFAVF money were Creative Response Concepts, which got $62, 064 for consulting and Patton Boggs, which was paid $150,286 for legal expenses.

Major Contributors 2004-2005

The California Orange County Register reported July 24, 2005, that the largest contributors to PFA-VF -- for a total $15.7 million -- were Dawn Arnall and Alex Spanos.

According to FEC records, the following were major PFA-VF contributors in 2004. (CampaignMoney.com)

More about PAF-VF

According to an April 10, 2006, query on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website, the Progress for America Voter Fund's committee designation is stated as "Unauthorized". [9]

The FEC search showed no results for a legitimate political action committee by the name of "Progress for America PAC", "Progress for America Political Action Committee", "Progress for America Fund", "Progress for America Action Fund" or "PFA Voter Fund".

PFA-VF public relations firm is McCarthy Marcus Hennings, Ltd.

Ads

"The Progress for America Voter Fund ran its first television ad in July [2004], and went on to spend more than any other 527 on the pro-Bush side." [10]

"After putting up the Web page supporting Judge Alito, Progress for America created an advertisement within hours and ran $425,000 in television commercials in the first week. It activated consultants in 20 states, who began lobbying for Mr. Alito before editorial boards and on local talk radio programs. And it announced that it would spend $50,000 on Internet advertising and online advocacy.

"The group sent about 10 million e-mail messages to supporters, with help from lists supplied by the Republican National Committee and other organizations, and it released 'Alito2Go,' a video clip of its commercial on the judge that can be viewed with an iPod," Glen Justice and Aron Pilhofer wrote November 14, 2005.

Ad Links

Personnel (Current and Former)

Contact Information

Progress for America Voter Fund
Post Office Box 57167
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 877-792-3800
Email: info AT pfavoterfund.com
Website: http://www.pfavoterfund.com

Note: Portions of this article were taken from Laura Miller's "Progress for the Powerful", which was published by PR Watch, Volume 11, No. 4 (2004).

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

Profiles

Contributions & Expenditures

Legal Documents

Articles & Commentary

2003

  • Peter H. Stone, "Inside Two of the Soft-Money Havens," National Journal, December 20, 2003. (No active link available.)

2004

2005

2006