May 24, 2011; Source: The Times-Tribune | The Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization which, according to its website, promotes the importance of economic growth linked to free enterprise. Although its news reports, polls, and issue essays revel in attacking Barack Obama, the Commission doesn’t explicitly say that it is advocating for or against the election or defeat of political candidates. In fact, in its application to the IRS, it specifically said it wouldn’t do it.
But the indefatigable Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) headed by Melanie Sloan filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission because the Commission spent money last fall promoting the candidacy of Republican congressional candidate Lou Barletta, the well known anti-immigrant former mayor of Hazleton, Penn., against then incumbent Paul Kanjorski (Kanjorski lost after 26 years in Congress). The commission even spent over $67,000 on 49 television commercials attacking Kanjorski and promoting Barletta.
The Commission spent a total of $2.3 million on 12 races across the nation. Was the Commission campaigning or simply educating the public? For example, one of the ads said that Barletta had better ideas for reducing the budget deficit than Kanjorski and ended with Barletta’s picture next to the words, “Help Lou Barletta.” Sounds like partisan political campaigning to us, worthy of a report to the FEC. Is it so easy to flout the regs governing transparency around political expenditures? Didn’t the Commission’s parents tell it that it is wrong to fib?—Rick Cohen