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Exposing the "Main Street" Republicans

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By Michelle Malkin  •  November 28, 2005 12:12 PM

The “Main Street” Republicans, who I criticized earlier this month for sabotaging conservative House efforts to open up ANWR for drilling, have sent a letter accusing me of “libelous statements.” I’ve uploaded the letter from Danielle Graham, counsel for the Republican Main Street Partnership, here. (As you’ll see from the letter, it appears there are no spell checkers on “Main Street.”)

This baseless legal threat is useful because it helps further illuminate the relationship between George Soros, the Republican Main Street Partnership, and the Main Street Individual Fund–as well as the Center for Responsive Politics, which runs the website “Open Secrets.”

As you’ll recall, I linked to the Open Secrets website on Nov. 10 after a reader pointed to a $50,000 donation listed there from George Soros to the Main Street Individual Fund, 2004 Election Cycle. Forgive me for spelling out the painfully obvious, but anyone who clicked on the link that I provided saw that I was pointing to the Soros donation to the Main Street Individual Fund, which funds “Main Street” moderate Republicans, as well as to the Center’s statement connecting MSIF with the Republican Main Street Partnership:

Main Street Republicans

Ms. Graham mistakenly believes that I asserted Soros gave the donation to the RMSP. Not true, but more on the connections in a moment.

In a not-so-open move, the Open Secrets website completely deleted the 2004 Soros donation from the entry sometime between Nov. 10 and Nov. 16, 2005, when a reader of this blog received the following e-mail from Center for Responsive Politics researcher Dan Auble regarding the relationship between the Republican Main Street Partnership and the Main Street Individual Fund:

From: Dan Auble
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2005 09:19:38 -0500
Subject: Re: Republican Main Street

The Center continues to believe that the groups are linked, based on the fact that Sarah Chamberlain Resnick is the Treasurer or Custodian for each, as well as on numerous news reports.

According to IRS records the Main Street Individual Fund did receive a contribution from George Soros in April of 2004 that was promptly returned to him within a week. We have changed our web page to reflect this fact.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention and feel free to contact us with any further concerns.

Daniel Auble
Researcher
Center for Responsive Politics

I called Auble to ask why no public explanation or notation appears on the webpage to explain the removal of the 2004 Soros donation listing. He has not responded. In the meantime, Ms. Graham, the counsel for the Republican Main Street Partnership, disingenuously accuses me of linking to a webpage that “does not even mention Mr. Soros.” Well, yes, the mention is now gone. It has even been wiped out of the Google cached page. But contrary to the letter’s insinuation, it was there when I linked to it and it’s still visible elsewhere.

I will await further public explanation from Mr. Auble and am amending my past post in the meantime to clarify the return of the 2004 Soros donation from the MSIF. I’ll also add any new information should the Center for Responsive Politics publicly acknowledge any error and openly explain the deletion of info on Soros’ donations.

The Center for Responsive Politics, you should know, is itself the recipient of a $75,000 grant from one of George Soros’s foundations, the Open Society Institute.

Although the 2004 donation was returned, another $50,000 donation from Soros to the Main Street Individual Fund apparently was not. As Jim Geraghty among others reported last year, Soros donated $50,000 to MSIF shortly after its founding in late 2002. Main Street Individual Fund spokeswoman Sarah Chamberlain Resnick told Geraghty:

“We had no idea he was going to go after Bush,” she said. “Since then, he has offered additional donations, but we have turned them down because we are Republicans first.”

Geraghty’s response to Resnick’s cluelessness defense:

Apparently the moderate Republicans on the Main Street board missed Soros’s April 8, 2002, speech at the University of Pennsylvania where he said, “If we assess the foreign-policy accomplishments of the Bush administration since Sept. 11, the scorecard is quite dismal.”

“There are some people in the Bush administration who have the same mentality as Arafat or Sharon,” Soros said. “I can name names, like Ashcroft, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, although that is considered impolite…. [T]he war on terrorism cannot be won by waging war. We must, of course, protect our security; but we must also correct the grievances on which terrorism feeds.”

MSIF kept Soros’s donation.

“We thought it might be a bigger story if they returned it,” Resnick said. “It’s, by comparison, only a little bit of money, and we might as well get some Republicans help with that money.”

Ms. Graham, counsel for the RMSP, denies any affiliation at all between the group and the MSIF. The Main Street Individual Fund, Ms. Graham writes, “is NOT the same as the RMSP, nor is it affiliated with or controlled by RMSP. To state otherwise is false, misleading to the public, and damaging to RMSP’s repuation.”

There is no official affiliation, but the unofficial ties and tentacles are extensive–and Soros’ fingerprints are indelible. Resnick has served as an officer in both organizations, as the Center for Responsive Politics has reported. Despite its stealthy deletion of the 2004 Soros donation, the Center’s Open Secrets website stands by its reporting on the connection between RMSP and the Main Street Individual Fund. John Machacek of Gannett investigated the ties further on 3/28/04. A few key excerpts:

A group supporting moderate Republicans, led by New York Rep. Amo Houghton, has pocketed $50,000 from George Soros — one of President Bush’s harshest critics — even as the GOP tries to stop the liberal billionaire from helping Democratic-leaning groups pay for anti-Bush ads.

The Soros connection has put Houghton on the spot at home. Conservative Mark Assini, a Rochester-area county legislator hoping to challenge the veteran congressman in a GOP primary this fall, accuses Houghton of betraying Bush and the Republican Party by “partnering” with Soros.

But there are also questions about whether groups such as the Republican Main Street Partnership, the organization that Houghton helped establish and now finances, should use different entities to raise “soft money,” unlimited amounts of unregulated cash from corporations, labor unions and wealthy individuals like Soros.

Another issue is whether these fund-raising entities create an appearance that federal lawmakers are illegally raising soft money to help elect candidates.

“There is always that worry,” Houghton said in an interview.

The Corning-based Republican, who will announce in April whether to seek an 10th term, said he asked Soros last year before his attacks on Bush to support the Partnership. But Houghton said he wasn’t aware that any of Soros’ money had ended up in an independent soft money account.

“George Soros is a very controversial person … and I don’t like what he is doing against Bush,” Houghton said.

“As far as his contribution to Main Street goes, anything he can do to help Republicans is fine, too. It’s not a lot of money and, frankly, we haven’t asked for a lot of money from people.”

The new campaign finance law bars members of Congress and political parties from raising soft money, but exempts independent political organizations from that restriction.

Such a loophole has enabled activists in both parties to create a new set of groups, known as 527s, to raise and spend soft money for campaign advertising and voter turnout drives. The groups derive their name from the section of the tax code that gives them tax-exempt status.

The campaign finance law took effect in November 2002. Before that time, the Republican Main Street Partnership raised soft money through a 527 committee controlled by its board of directors, which included Houghton and six other members of Congress…

***

To comply with the law, the Partnership abolished its original 527 controlled by members of Congress and dumped about $178,000 of remaining funds in late 2002 into new independent soft money entities.

They are the Main Street Fund, which solicits groups, unions and businesses for donations, and the Main Street Individual Fund, which raises money from wealthy individuals aimed at helping specific candidates.

The two funds are legally independent from the Partnership’s board of directors.

By the end of last year, the two funds had raised a combined $562,389 in soft money from donors that included a few New York investment bankers, high-tech CEOs, groups such as the National Education Association and Soros. Houghton also contributed $25,000.

Although Houghton and the other members of Congress don’t control the Main Street groups, their mere presence on the Partnership’s board of directors could create an appearance of soliciting soft money, say some campaign finance experts.

…[Former FEC official Larry] Noble said contributors blur the lines of the committees’ legal structures.

“It clearly raises the issue of whether or not it is putting federal officeholders back in the business of at least appearing like they are soliciting soft money,” he said. “The real question is whether or not their names are being thrown around in the solicitation of soft money.”

Main Street connections

The two Main Street funds and the Partnership’s board of directors use the same staff and have the same lawyer, former FEC chairman Trevor Potter.

The Partnership’s former chairman, former Maine governor and congressman John “Jock” McKernan Jr., also was chairman and a director of the two Main Street soft-money funds. Business commitments forced him to step down from his fund activities late last year, Partnership officials said.

But McKernan was still listed as a consultant “exercising control” over the Main Street Individual Fund, according to a fund-raising report it filed with the FEC in February. Some of the soft-money donors in that report also contributed to the Partnership’s original, now-defunct 527 operation.

McKernan’s wife, Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, remains on the Partnership’s board along with Houghton. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Reps. Mike Castle of Delaware, Tom Davis of Virginia, Doug Ose of California and Fred Upton of Michigan also serve on the board.

Other current directors of the two Main Street Funds are Sarah Chamberlain Resnick, the Partnership’s executive director, and Bob Duke, previously a Partnership consultant. Resnick says she works on her own time as a paid “custodian of records and contact person” for the two Main Street Funds.

Resnick said the members of Congress on the Partnership’s board do not make fund-raising decisions for the two Main Street funds…

…Soros gave $50,000 to the Main Street Individual Fund in April 2002…Resnick said Soros also offered a “seven-figure contribution” to the policy side of the Republican Main Street Partnership, which promotes the “moderate Republican agenda.”

But she said the Partnership board “didn’t care for any of his money at that point…”

The “Main Street” lawyer claims that an informational link on this little blog is “damaging to RMSP’s reputation.” No. “Main Street” Republican stunts like the anti-ANWR drilling vote are the real reputation killers.

***

The good news is there may be hope yet for the ANWR drilling proposal in the Senate. But with friends like these, don’t hold your breath.

***
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