GOP Eyes 'Soft Money' Funds

Republicans who had previously branded 527 fund-raising groups illegal, corrupt and a pox on American politics have changed their tune and are encouraging the groups to raise money hand over fist.

After the Federal Election Commission (search) decided last week not to stop the independent groups financed by so-called unregulated soft-money, several Republican-oriented 527s began buying up television advertising time. Pro-Bush 527s, for instance, have decided to go where the Bush-Cheney re-election team has hesitated — to images of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"President Bush is fighting terrorism to save lives and protect liberty. George W. Bush: the vision to promote freedom and the courage to defend it," says an ad produced by the tax-cutting proponents, Club for Growth (search).

Conservatives have stayed mostly on the sidelines, fearful that paying for independent ads would violate campaign finance laws enacted after the 2002 election. But with the FEC decision, these groups have opened the spigots.

The pro-Bush ads are late to join the game, however. Several anti-Bush 527s have been operating for months.

"What's happened here is the Democrats really launched these 527s, and the Republicans are not going to sit on the sidelines now that they are legal," said Larry Noble of watchdog group, the Center for Responsive Politics (search).

Click here to watch a report by Fox News Channel's Major Garrett.