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Coleman’s American Action Network Infuses Cash Into Close Senate Races

Former Sen. Norm Colman (R-Minn.), who now heads the conservative 501(c)4 group American Action Network that shares an office building with Karl Rove-brainchildren American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, is drawing some flack back home for reneging on his previous support for banning soft money in politics and his disavowal of negative advertising. When he was battling the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) in 2002, Coleman came out in favor of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation and asked Wellstone to join him in restricting campaign spending to in-state individuals and corporations:

“I can’t change where we’ve been yesterday,” Coleman said, “but we can say starting from now that we reach agreement on this and that simply now we look forward and by looking forward ensure that only Minnesotans and only companies headquartered in Minnesota and individuals in Minnesota, that they’re the ones who decide who the next senator should be.”

Next election, locked in a tight battle in 2008 with current Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), he suddenly took down all his negative advertising and called on his opponent and all outside campaign committees to do the same. “At times like this, politics should not add to the negativity. It should lift people up with hope and a confident vision for the future,” he told the Star-Tribune.

Since helping found the American Action Network, however, Coleman’s been sounding a different tune. While the group was intended to serve largely as a policy shop to rival the liberal Center for American Progress, it has mainly just been cutting ads attacking Democrats (including Feingold) who are currently engaged in tight races.

In addition to infusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside cash into Feingold’s Wisconsin race, Coleman’s group has also spent $750,000 targeting Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in her tight contest against Republican Dino Rossi and $450,000 attacking Senate candidate Rep. Paul Hodes (D) in New Hampshire. And because it is incorporated as a 501(c)4 “social welfare” nonprofit, the D.C.-based AAN does not publicly disclose its donors and has not listed any contributors on the independent expenditure forms it is obliged to file with the FEC.

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