When Republican power-brokers formed the Draft Branstad PAC last month, I assumed that the entity was a political action committee, as implied by the name "PAC." However, the Draft Branstad PAC registered with the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board as a 527 committee. The distinction is important, because unlike PACs, 527 groups do not have to disclose their donors and are not allowed to advocate for candidates.
Today the Iowa Democratic Party caught the folks in charge of the Draft Branstad effort running their 527 group like a PAC:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2009
DRAFT BRANSTAD GROUP IGNORES IOWA ELECTION LAW
DES MOINES, IA -The political action group called Draft Branstad, formed to promote Terry Branstad’s candidacy for Governor before he became a declared candidate, is ignoring Iowa ethics law and engaging in express advocacy for Branstad, who became a candidate on Wednesday, Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Michael Kiernan said Friday.
• FACT: Last night Draft Branstad hosted an event at Graze restaurant in West Des Moines. The event included Branstad campaign paraphernalia and free drinks. It was paid for by Draft Branstad and apparently the materials came from the same group.
• FACT: Draft Branstad continues to advertise on conservative websites. Screen captures made Friday showed activity on multiple sites.
“This Draft Branstad group has spent funds directly benefiting the Branstad campaign,” Kiernan said Friday. “That’s a blatant violation of Iowa campaign ethics law.” Iowa election law prohibits 527 groups from engaging in express advocacy on behalf of any candidate or candidate’s committee.
“Branstad should either embrace the spending of this group, since it’s a group designed by him to promote his candidacy, or publicly disavow it,” Kiernan said Friday.
Iowans know better. They aren’t confused by the tactics being used to avoid both the letter and the spirit of campaign ethics law. They know Branstad was behind the “movement” to draft him – and he knows why. This campaign-that’s-not-a-campaign is a mockery of our system of democratic government and a slap in the face to Iowa’s bipartisan tradition of clean elections.
Now, we call upon Terry Branstad to:
1 Call upon the Draft Branstad group to cease and desist public statements and representations in his favor;
2 Disavow any expenditures already made by the Draft Branstad group after Tuesday, Oct. 6;
3 Call for the immediate disbanding of the Draft Branstad group based on Branstad’s decision to become a candidate on Wednesday, Oct. 7.
The leaders of the Draft Branstad PAC should know better than to make this kind of mistake, and Iowans should know better than to elect Terry Branstad again.