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Excerpts From the ACU Complaint to the FEC

This is a formal complaint against MoveOn.org Political Action and the New York Times Company for violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (FECA) … and the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). . . .

The Complaint is based upon publicly available information and numerous media reports documenting the illegal excessive corporate contribution from the New York Times Company to MoveOn.org Political Action as more specifically detailed below, and which reports are referenced herein. . . .

Respondent MoveOn.org Political Action is a registered multi-candidate political committee as that term is defined by FECA. . . .

The New York Times Company is a media corporation whose stock is publicly traded with 2006 revenues of $3.3 billion, which publishes newspapers including the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, 15 other daily newspapers, owns WQXR-FM and more than 30 Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com and About.com.

On Monday, Sept. 10, 2007, MoveOn sponsored a full-page advertisement in the New York Times  [copy at right] attacking Gen. David Petraeus prior to his report to Congress regarding the status of the United States military operations in Iraq. . . .

The open rate for a full-page black-and-white advertisement [copy at right] in the New York Times is $181,692, according to a spokesman for the New York Times. Another representative of the New York Times advised a reporter that to purchase a full-page black-and-white advertisement in the New York Times would cost $167,000, according to published reports. A spokesman for MoveOn stated that it paid only $65,000 for the Ad. The New York Times Company has given a discount of between $102,000 and more than $116,000 from the stated rate for similar advertising by other advertisers. . . .

The New York Times Company’s $100,000+ discount to MoveOn for the Ad constitutes a corporate soft money contribution to a federal political committee.

MoveOn’s acceptance of the discount constitutes acceptance of a soft money contribution from a prohibited source (the New York Times Company) in excess of federal contribution limits.

Contributions to political committees such as MoveOn are limited by federal law to $5,000 per calendar year and corporations such as the New York Times Company are prohibited by federal law from making any contributions to a federal political committee such as MoveOn. . . .

The Act defines a contribution as anything of value. . . .

The regulations of the Federal Election Commission state: “The provision of any goods or services without charge or at a charge that is less than the usual and normal charge for such goods or services is a contribution … If goods or services are provided at less than the usual and normal charge, the amount of the in-kind contribution is the difference between the usual and normal charge for the goods or services at the time of the contribution and the amount charged the political committee.”

The FEC regulations also provide that the “usual and normal charge for goods means the price of those goods in the market from which they ordinarily would have been purchased at the time of the contribution.”

The discount provided to MoveOn by the New York Times constitutes an illegal soft money corporate contribution to a federal political committee. . . . The amount of the discount is further an excessive contribution of soft money in excess of the statutory contribution limit of $5,000 per calendar year from a donor to a federal PAC. . . .
MoveOn has further violated the provisions … by knowingly accepting an illegal contribution from the New York Times Company.

ACU demands a full and thorough investigation of the cost of the Ad and the discount given by the New York Times Company to MoveOn.org Political Action, for payment by MoveOn of the usual and normal charge for the costs of the Ad and the requisite civil money penalty for violation of federal law by each of the Respondents.

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