In the 2004 campaign season, 22 well-heeled contributors have, for the first time, made Section 527 organizations—the non-profit committees that can raise unlimited donations from individuals, corporations and labor unions—beneficiaries of their largesse, giving at least $200,000 each and a total of more than $26 million since early 2003.
These 22 contributors, while new to the 527 system, have each previously made donations to candidates and parties on the federal level. When contributing to 527 groups, most of these newcomers directed their money to organizations that opposed the re-election of President George W. Bush, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity.
The infusion of cash from first-time donors, coupled with the recent inactivity of many of the largest contributors to 527 groups since disclosure began in 2000, points to a changing of the guard among individual contributors in the current election cycle.
Every first-time donor has contributed to a 527 that has focused advertising on national electioneering. While new to the 527 system, these contributors have given at least $4.8 million since 1991 to political committees that, unlike 527s, are regulated by the Federal Election Commission. The 527 groups file with the Internal Revenue Service, not the FEC.
Almost 95 percent of their 527 contributions have gone to Democratic-leaning groups—many of which are running issue ads or registering voters to defeat Bush. Joint Victory Campaign 2004, which primarily splits its proceeds between two other anti-Bush committees, has taken in the most from this new club of donors, relying on them for $15.7 million; overall, JVC has raised $41.7 million.
JVC provides money to America Coming Together, which canvases and employs people to increase voting efforts, and the Media Fund, which has run ads criticizing the President entitled: "Bush and Halliburton," "Broken Promises," and "No Oil Company Left Behind."