Leadership Forum

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The Leadership Forum is a 527 committee fundraising group led by Susan B. Hirschmann, former chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas), and former Rep. Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.), the organization’s president and vice president respectively. [1][2]

Hirschmann and Paxon, "an elite GOP lobbyist, had set up the group to raise soft money to fund television issue ads and other activities that would benefit Republican candidates in the upcoming election." [3]

"After passage of the 2002 campaign-finance reform law, Mr. DeLay distanced himself from the group, run by former Rep. Bill Paxon, once a senior DeLay aide." [4]


Background

"In a bid to overcome GOP donors' reluctance to contribute large amounts of 'soft money," the pro-Republican Leadership Forum has begun promoting its ties to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and other prominent party leaders," Thomas B. Edsall, reported in the May 29, 2004, Washington Post.

"But Hastert's involvement -- along with that of Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -- appears to run counter to a warning issued two years ago by the Federal Election Commission that the group was too closely linked to GOP lawmakers, according to campaign watchdog groups," Edsall wrote.

"In November 2002, campaign finance watchdog groups filed complaints against the Leadership Forum and other 527s. In the case of the forum, the watchdog groups, including Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center, charged that it was created by the Republican House leadership and that its seed money was a $1 million gift from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"As a result, the watchdog groups charged, the NRCC and the Leadership Forum and its organizers -- Susan B. Hirschmann, former aide [until August 2002] to House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Tex.), and former NRCC chairman and now lobbyist Bill Paxon -- were 'engaged in an illegal scheme to raise and spend soft money in the 2004 election.'

"Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, any group financed, maintained, established or controlled by a national party or by federal elected officials is prohibited from raising and spending unregulated soft money from corporations, unions and wealthy people," Edsall wrote.

The FEC dismissed the case in April 2003. "By a four-to-two vote, the FEC found that the Leadership Forum was not affiliated with the NRCC as the complaint had charged. Under the new campaign finance law, organizations affiliated with the national party committees may not raise and spend soft money." [5]

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