One of the many inequities in our current campaign finance system involves the rules on so-called “Section 527” organizations (named after the section of the Internal Revenue Code that establishes them). Current campaign finance law bars federally elected officials and candidates for federal office–Representatives, Senators, President and Vice President–from having such groups, which can raise funds in unlimited amounts from any source (including directly from labor unions and corporations). That law only applies to federal elections (that is, to those running for or holding federal office), but state officials–including governors–can use 527 funds to promote themselves right up to the moment that they officially declare themselves to be a federal candidate.
And, as the sharp-eyed Liz Mair points out at GOP Progress that appears to be what current Massachusetts governor and likely 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney is doing with an ad that ostensibly supports the Republican candidate to replace him, Kerry Healey, but spends far more time touting Romney’s accomplishments. The chairman of the 527 group that paid for the ad, the Republican Governors Association, incidentally, is one Mitt Romney.
The RGA raises money in big chunks–in 2006, they’ve taken in $100,000 or more from companies liek Avaya Inc., American Financial Group, Pfizer, AT&T, Wyeth, General Electric, Outback Steakhouse, Phillip Morris successor Altria Group, Parsons Corp., MGM Mirage and Verizon Communications. That’s something that federal candidates can’t do, nor can they raise money for or coordinate with 527 groups.
GOP Progress compares this to Worldcom–Romney is misusing money meant to elect Republican governors to promote himself. I’m not sure I’d leap to that conclusion; it may well be that the donors are drawn to the organization in part to show early support for Romney (although it’s certainly worth noting that the RGA raised large amounts of money before Romney took it over). In either case, though, it’s fairly clear that Romney isn’t above taking full advantage of his status as a non-federal candidate, using the RGA’s big slush fund of unregulated cash to tout his accomplishments.