Obama Thuggery, Trying to Shut Down the AIP's Ad


The Obama camp seems to be trying to smother an ad that was run by the AIP (American Issues Project) concerning Obama's notorious Ayers connection. Ben Bauers, general counsel for Obama sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding the investigation and potential prosecution of the AIP and its founder, Dallas billionaire, Harold Simmons for allegedly violating the individual aggregate contribution limits. [1]

But before you make a judgement on Obama or the AIP, you have to understand what the AIP is, what they represent, and the Obama campaign's claims against them. The American Issues Project is by their own definition:

American Issues Project is a 501(c)4 organization representing a
coalition of conservative activists committed to raising important issues that
deserve deeper examination given their impact on policy and politics.

What is a 501(c)4 organization?

A 501(c)4, by definition is, "A common type of non-profit organization that can engage in lobbying or political campaigning." [3] The IRS goes a little bit deeper, take a look.

501c4s are a common type of non-profit organization that can engage in lobbying or political campaigning.
  • “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated
    exclusively for the promotion of social welfare,
  • "or local associations of employees, the membership of which is limited to
    the employees of a designated person or persons in a particular municipality,
  • "and the net earnings of which are devoted exclusively to charitable,
    educational, or recreational purposes.” [3]

Bauer is basically making two claims against AIP 1) The group is engaged in political activities that a 501(c)(4) organization may not engage in. 2) The group, by engaging in express advocacy against Sen. Obama and engaging in no other activities, is a political committee. But it has not registered as a political committee and has not followed the rules applicable to political committees. [4]

But going back to the definition of a 501(c)4 are they really doing anything wrong?

501(c)4s can engage in political campaign activity, so long as this is consistent with the organization’s purpose and is not the organization’s primary activity. [3]

AIP is a conservative activist group, anything that the Obama camp would try to do would diametrically opposed to what this group stands for. So, opposition to the Senator's Presidential bid falls right in line with their mission statement and purpose. Also, as a 501(c)4, AIP is allowed to participate in the campaigning process which includes bringing to light viable and truthful information about the opposing candidate. If there was a lie or lies present in this ad, then it is up to the Obama camp to bring legal action against AIP in the form of a libel suit.

The second issue is whether or not the organization's prime activity is campaigning against Senator Obama. If it could proven that this was the case then they would qualify as a political committee. This would mean they are subject to FEC contribution rules that limit private donations to $5,000. Simmons, the founder of AIP, made a $2.9 million donation, which would be illegal and make him subject to prosecution. As a non-profit organization, AIP must publicly disclose all of its financial activity. Unless Mr. Bauer or the Obama camp has presented this to the DOJ (Department of Justice), this is a baseless claim. To date I have not come across anything indicating that they have this proof.

From looking at the evidence that has been presented and understanding what a 501(c)4is allowed to do, I do not see a problem. What I do see is an attempt to suppress first amendment rights on the grounds that the Obama camp has nothing to refute these claims. All that is left to assume is this is ad is working and that this baseless attack is an attempt to silence an effective assault by the Right, anyway possible.

One final note, this is not the first time the Obama campaign has used this form of legal thuggery. They were successful against the Clinton and Edwards campaigns during the primaries. [1]


1) Obama camp: Prosecute Simmons
2) American Issues Project
3) What Is a 501c4 Organization?
4) Is the American Issues Project Breaking Campaign Finance Law?



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