Shadowy 527 running ads attacking Bennet

A newly-organized 527 group with dubious origins is running factually inaccurate radio ads against Sen. Michael Bennet (D).

The group, called New Leadership For Colorado, is running two ads on radio that sound like breaking news bulletins, charging that Bennet voted against a cost-of-living increase for Social Security and for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The group is tax-exempt under section 527 of the tax code and the IRS classifies them as “advocacy groups” — examples of these include Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and America Coming Together.

Here is the transcript of one ad:

Appointed Senator Michael Bennet … in hot water again today.

News from Washington coming in that Bennet voted against a cost-of-living increase for senior citizens on Social Security.

So is Michael Bennet out of touch with seniors in Colorado, Mark?

That’s the charge being made, Susan.

Senator Michael Bennet voted against Senate Amendment 3353 that would have provided senior citizens with a $250 increase in their Social Security.

And that has some senior citizens furious.

“He voted to bailout Wall Street…and now he won’t help folks like us who depend on Social Security? Senior Citizens need to send Michael Bennet a message that this isn’t acceptable .”

Thank you for that report, Mark. And we’ll have new reports later.

The ad is misleading at best, if not outright false. Bennet was not even in the Senate when the TARP bill passed. The group issued a clarification Tuesday morning. “To be even more clear, Michael Bennet voted to bailout Wall Street when he voted against preventing banks from becoming too big to fail,” wrote the group on its website. The group is referring to the Kaufman-Brown Amendment in the financial regulation bill that would have capped any bank of holding more than 10 percent of the nation’s total deposits. However, it wasn’t a bailout, and the amendment failed by a wide margin of 33-60 — Bennet’s vote was not crucial. Bennet’s rival, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, has also attacked Bennet for not voting for the Kaufman-Brown Amendment. (Financial regulation — even without Kaufman-Brown — barely survived a filibuster and passed the Senate by a 60-39 vote.)

The charge that Bennet voted against a cost of living increase for Social Security is also misleading. Because of economic conditions, Social Security did not get a cost-of-living adjustment in 2010, but the Colorado Statesman reported that Bennet voted for legislation authorizing a $250 payment to people who receive Social Security benefits to be paid for out of stimulus funds. That legislation failed. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sponsored an amendment to fund the payments using deficit spending, but the amendment failed 47-50, and was eventually ruled out of order.

Romanoff also echoed the charge to the Statesman , saying, “My opponent, on the other hand, voted against the $250 to seniors to make up for the cost-of-living increase they’re not getting. So instead of actually defending that vote, or any of the others he’s cast, he’s chosen to attack me. It’s a Washington dance I’ve labeled the Potomac Two Step.”

When asked about the similarity between the group’s attacks and Romanoff’s, Berrick Abramson, Romanoff’s deputy campaign manager told the Colorado Independent, “Those are 10 or 12 specific votes that we have hit Bennet on.” He added, “If somebody saw offense at some of the same connections, I don’t know what to say — we have absolutely no connection.”

The group is called New Leadership For Colorado, and was only created on July 16 according to IRS records, and has not filed as a 527 with the Colorado Secretary of State. Its treasurer is Debbie Wamsley, who is a former chief of staff for Colorado AFL/CIO. She now runs a LLC created in March called Campaign Compliance Ease, which describes itself as “specializing in campaign finance compliance, bookkeeping, and administrative services.” Wamsley, who is based out of Arvada, also runs another 527, as of July 14, called Leadership for Caring Communities. That group has spent money recently on direct mail campaigns. (Wamsley and New Leadership for Colorado did not return phone calls and e-mails for comment.)

The Romanoff campaign denied any connection to the group and disavowed any “outside influence” in the campaign. Abramson said, “We have no idea who they are.”

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