Murky Support Groups Spend Big Bucks in Iowa

Edwards condemns groups, yet one is poised to spend $770,000 for him.

ByABC News
December 22, 2007, 3:44 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa, Dec. 22, 2007 — -- A fierce fight broke out among the Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa, Saturday, as Sen. Barack Obama accused his rival, former Sen. John Edwards of hypocrisy.

The debate was not about the Iraq war or health care but the influence of independent third party groups that are not supposed to be coordinating with any candidate or campaign, and are pouring money, TV ads, fliers, phone calls and workers into the Hawkeye State.

Obama pointed out that Edwards has condemned these independent political support groups, the least transparent of which are called 527s, while his former campaign manager is helming one that, on Friday, pushed to spend $770,000 in TV ads on his behalf.

Nick Baldick, Edwards' campaign manager in 2004, and a senior adviser in his campaign until last April, is running the pro-Edwards "Alliance for a New America" with help from local branches of the Service Employees International Union.

"I don't just talk the talk, I walk the walk," Obama said in Oskaloosa, Iowa. "You can't say, yesterday, you don't believe in them, and today, you have three quarters of a million dollars spent for you. You can't just talk the talk."

In Lisbon, Iowa, today, Edwards insisted his hands are tied.

"I can't talk to them about it at all. We're not allowed to coordinate in any way," he said.

In Coralville, Iowa, this afternoon, Edwards timidly called on the group "not to run the ads. I don't support 527s. They're a part of the law. I don't have any direct control over it, because the law requires that I stay out of it. But I would prefer that all 527s not just this one but all the 527s stay out of Iowa. But I have no legal authority over that."

Though it's illegal for third party groups to coordinate with candidates or their campaigns, organizations supporting Edwards and Sen. Hillary Clinton are spending millions on their behalf.

Any Iowa mom who Googles the word "recipe" should see an ad linking to, which recruits women to caucus for Clinton. The ad is courtesy of the powerful abortion rights group EMILY's List, which works to elect Democratic women.

EMILY's List is a political action committee, not a 527, meaning it is regulated by the Federal Election Commission, and subject to its contribution limits. The 527s operate much more beneath the radar, allowed to accept financial contributions in any amount from anyone, and required only to make regular reports to the Internal Revenue Service of both funding and expenditures.