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Swiftly Defending DeLay

A somewhat misleading pro-DeLay ad is funded by $200,000 from a donor who also bankrolled the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

February 20, 2006

Modified: February 20, 2006

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Summary

 

A newly formed conservative group is running a TV ad in Houston implying that liberal billionaire George Soros is "the source" of an earlier anti-DeLay ad by liberal groups. The pro-DeLay ad is somewhat misleading. Soros gave the liberal groups early funding two years ago, but there's no evidence he funded the anti-DeLay ad.

However, the source of the pro-DeLay ad turns out to be a Houston homebuilder who gave $200,000 to air it, and who also was an early financier of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 2004 presidential campaign.

Analysis

 

An ad running in Houston defends Republican Congressman Tom DeLay from Texas, the former majority leader of the House, by attacking George Soros. It implies that he is "the source" of an earlier TV ad that attacked DeLay (and which we discussed in an earlier article.) That earlier ad called for DeLay to resign, citing his dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Free Enterprise Committee Ad: "Meet George Soros"

Announcer: George Soros.  Full of money, and liberal ideas. Like legalizing drugs, letting felons vote and keeping the Death Tax
Soros spent 25 million dollars against President Bush. 
He also bankrolled the liberals linked to attacks on Tom DeLay.
(On Screen: Soros picture disappears and a color picture of Tom DeLay appears on the left.)
Announcer: Maybe that’s because Tom DeLay fights for lower taxes and economic freedom.
(Text: Lower Taxes, Economic Freedom)
Announcer: So when you see attacks on Tom DeLay consider the source.
(On Screen: Black and white picture of Soros.)
Announcer: And tell Tom DeLay to keep fighting for your conservative values.  The Free Enterprise Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

Soros "the source?"

The ad says Soros, chairman of Soros Fund Management, LLC, is "full of money and liberal ideas" such as legalizing drugs and letting felons vote. It says Soros "bankrolled the liberals linked to attacks on Tom DeLay," and it concludes: "So when you see attacks on Tom DeLay consider the source," while a photograph of Soros is displayed on screen.

It's certainly true that Soros is a wealthy liberal who spent millions opposing President Bush's re-election. Soros also favors legalizing "medical marijuana" (not exactly the same thing as legalizing all drugs), restoring voting rights to persons who have completed their prison terms after being convicted of felonies, and keeping some version of the federal tax on large estates.

However, the claim that Soros is "the source" of the earlier ad attacking DeLay is without support. The only evidence offered by the ad or its sponsor is a Jan. 26 Houston Chronicle article which says that Soros in January 2004 gave $300,000 to the Campaign For America’s Future CC-Fund, a group directly related to Campaign for America’s Future (CFAF), one of the earlier ad's two sponsors. Toby Chaudhury, spokesman for CFAF, confirms that Soros made the donation but says CFAF has received nothing from him since. "George Soros didn't pay for the ads," Chaudhury said.

We also checked with a representative of the anti-DeLay ad's other sponsor, the Public Campaign Action Fund, who said Soros had made a donation in 2004, but nothing since. So the current ad is correct to say that Soros "bankrolled the liberals" behind the ad – but money given two years ago doesn't make Soros "the source" of an ad run in 2006. That money came from other sources, according to both spokesmen.

The Swift Boat Connection

Tracking down the source of this ad was something of a chore. The sponsor is the Free Enterprise Committee, a new group formed about the time the anti-DeLay ad hit the air in Texas. It is a so-called "527" political committee based in Washington, DC. It first registered with the Internal Revenue Service on Jan. 31 of this year. Its current registration form lists it as "connected" to the Free Enterprise Fund, an anti-tax group headed by New York merchant banker Mallory Factor. Its policy council is co-chaired by supply-side guru Arthur Laffer, former Republican vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, and MSNBC's pro-business crusader Lawrence Kudlow. The new committee  has yet to file any disclosure of its income or expenses, and a spokesman for the Free Enterprise Fund declined to say who had paid for the DeLay ad.

However, as the Houston Chronicle was first to report over the weekend, we were able to confirm that the ad is being financed by a $200,000 donation from Houston homebuilder Bob Perry. As we reported in 2004, Perry was the main source of initial funding for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at the time they launched their attack on the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Perry gave $100,000 of the first $158,750 received by the Swift Boat group, according to its first disclosure report. Perry is probably the biggest campaign donor in Texas. He and his wife Doylene gave more than $3 million to Texas Republicans during the 2002 elections and more than $2 million during the 2004 elections, according to a database maintained by the  Institute on Money in StatePolitics .

In addition, the Perrys have given $564,200 in donations to federal candidates and federal political committees since 1999, according to a search of records at the  Center for Responsive Politics. That includes $8,000 given directly to DeLay's current re-election effort on April 17, 2005.

"Mr. Perry felt the truth needed to be told and this was the best vehicle to do so," Perry spokesman Anthony Holm told the Chronicle. "Mr. Perry believes Tom DeLay has done an excellent job protecting jobs, NASA, and our borders. He spent it as the result of the several unjustified attacks on Tom DeLay."

--By Brooks Jackson and Emi Kolawole

Sources

 

“Free Enterprise Fund Announces New Chairman: Investment Leader and Noted Fundraiser Mallory Factor to Replace Outgoing President Stephen Moore,”  Free Enterprise Fund.   NewsRelease .  25 May 2005. 

Levine, Samantha. “2 groups that bough anti-DeLay TV ads able to shield donors ,”  The Houston Chronicle.  26 Jan 2006.

Levine, Samantha and Kristen Mack. “DeLay ad challenges anti-Bush billionaire; Area builder paid entire cost of TV attack on Dem financier Soros ,”  The Houston Chronicle.  17 Feb 2006.  B, Pg. 1.

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