RNC Subpoenas Labor Union Donation Records

The Republican National Committee, seeking to strengthen its case against the new campaign finance law, has subpoenaed the New Democrat Network and several labor unions for details on their fund-raising.

The RNC subpoenas and deposition requests seek information on campaign ads the New Democrat Network has run, how and when it solicits contributions, its top donors and communication between the political action committee and federal officeholders, include any lobbying.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, helped found the PAC five years ago to promote the ideas of centrist, pro-business Democrats.

The RNC requests ask the New Democrat Network whether it believes any of its activities are "corrupt or appear to corrupt" any federal officeholder or candidate and if so, why.

Other organizations targeted by RNC subpoenas and deposition requests issued Friday are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Treasury Employees Union and the Service Employees International Union.

An RNC official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday that the committee has subpoenaed groups across the political spectrum that conduct political activities similar to what the RNC would be prohibited from doing under the new campaign finance law taking effect in November.

The RNC has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, which will impose broad new fund-raising restrictions. One restriction would ban national party committees from raising unlimited "soft money" contributions from businesses, unions and others.

The Democratic and Republican national party committees are negotiating how they will respond to subpoenas issued to them by those defending the new law, including its congressional sponsors, the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department.

Those information requests, issued in early June, seek fund-raising information to back up the sponsors' contention that special interests are having undue influence on federal politicians by contributing large soft money checks.

A Democratic official said the party committees are negotiating over several issues, including a possible protective order that would shield documents from public release that the parties consider to contain proprietary fund-raising information.

Also Tuesday:

--The campaign finance law's sponsors, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Reps. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Martin Meehan, D-Mass., were discussing how to respond to the FEC's plan to implement the soft money ban, which they feel would open several loopholes in the law.

--Three campaign finance watchdog groups released an analysis that found nearly half of the $570 million that state Democratic and Republican parties raised for the last election came in unlimited "soft money" from the national party committees, much of that from businesses and unions.

Most of the 2000 spending went to transfers to other party committees, ads promoting party positions on issues, candidate support such as get-out-the-vote drives, direct mail and polling, and media expenses including television and newspaper campaign ads, the study found.

The groups predicted state and local parties will become even bigger channels for soft money spending after the law barring national parties from raising it takes effect.

They said they are concerned about the public's ability to track that money. Their analysis comparing state reports filed by nonfederal committees and FEC reports from the national party committees found millions of dollars in soft money transfers unreported by state committees.

"Here we are, a year and a half after the 2000 election, still trying to learn the truth about who gave what to whom in our political process," said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, which conducted the study with the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics.