American Future Fund wants FEC to overturn robocall bans

Interesting story from the Des Moines Register’s Iowa Politics Insider blog:

The American Future Fund Political Action has asked the Federal Election Commission for an advisory opinion about whether federal law preempts laws like that in Minnesota.

In that state, a live operator must initiate the recorded call with the consent of the person receiving the call.

The political action committee, which raises and contributes money for political campaigns, is based in Virginia, but its advocacy arm, American Future Fund, is run out of Des Moines.

Des Moines lawyer Nick Ryan, chairman of American Future Fund’s board, said such restrictions interfere with federal campaign finance laws, which cover the activities of federal candidates, national party organizations and political action committees.

Ryan argued that the issue his group is raising is about fairness. For example, it is more expensive to conduct a telephone campaign that requires hiring staff, an obstacle to candidates with small warchests, Ryan said.

For background on the American Future Fund, read this Daily Kos diary by Mrs Panstreppon and this article by Jason Hancock for the Iowa Independent.

This FEC request suggests that the group plans to continue to be involved in upcoming elections in Minnesota, perhaps including the 2010 governor’s race or Congressional elections. Iowa doesn’t have any restrictions on political robocalls. The American Future Fund has run television ads in Minnesota this fall and ran ads supporting Republican Senator Norm Coleman last year. In fact, Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party filed an FEC complaint against the group:

“The American Future Fund is a shadowy nonprofit organization,” the complaint said. “It purports to be exempt from tax under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. But its notion of ‘promoting the social welfare’ is to send valentines to electorally troubled Republican Senate candidates. The Commission should take immediate steps to enforce the law and expose this group’s secret financing to light of day.”

Here in Iowa, the American Future Fund seems to be backing Terry Branstad for governor. Tim Albrecht was that group’s communications director before taking a job with the Branstad campaign. Nicole Schlinger, former president of the American Future Fund, is now handling fundraising for the Branstad campaign.

A member of the Des Moines business community tells me that Ryan has been making fundraising calls for Branstad’s campaign. I don’t know if he’s doing that on his own time or as part of his work for the American Future Fund. Ryan has worked for Bruce Rastetter, one of the Iowa business leaders deeply involved in recruiting Branstad to run for governor again.

UPDATE: The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office will submit comments to the FEC defending that state’s law.

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