GOP kicks off ad blitz

Staff WriterMay 5, 2004 

Start listening today for the North Carolina Republican Main Street Committee, which has launched a statewide radio campaign to promote Republican leaders in the state House.

The committee was the brainchild of House Republican Speaker Richard Morgan and is led by two of Morgan's top lieutenants: former Speaker Harold Brubaker and state Rep. Danny McComas of Wilmington.

But don't expect to find out who is funding the group, which has filed paperwork not as a political action committee but as a so-called 527 -- an issue advocacy group with federal nonprofit status.

That means the group can keep its benefactors secret -- and that, unlike PACs, it can receive money directly from businesses.

Morgan's political people got an opinion from State Elections Director Gary Bartlett stating that, so long as the group produces only issue ads, it does not have to follow the rules of political committees. If the ads promote specific candidates or those from a particular party, it does.

Whether or not the group meets that definition is likely to depend upon who's listening -- Morgan's friends or his foes.

Morgan entered a power-sharing agreement with Democratic Speaker Jim Black last year. Republicans who do not believe he represents the party hope to unseat him this year.

And they are likely to take umbrage with the promotion of Morgan in the ads. A spot that will debut today, for example, contains these remarks from House Republican Leader Joe Kiser: "Under the leadership of our Republican Speaker Richard Morgan, we took the steps necessary to remove the marriage penalty tax for couples who file their taxes jointly."

State Rep. Sam Ellis of Wake County, one of Morgan's most vocal foes, took a dig at Morgan for finding a way to secure donations from people and firms possibly reluctant to give to a leader unpopular among some Republicans.

"It doesn't surprise me that Richard would use a facade to hide behind, because he cannot stand up and present himself to our party," Ellis said.

Edwards out and about

Sen. John Edwards has several more political trips planned in coming weeks, including his first campaign appearance this year on behalf of Erskine Bowles, the Democrat trying to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

Edwards is scheduled to help Bowles raise money at a Raleigh brunch on May 23, aides to both politicos said Tuesday. Details are still being worked out, but Bowles spokesman Carlos Monje said he expects a "sizable number" of people to attend.

The Edwards-Bowles relationship hit a rocky patch last summer as Edwards weighed whether to seek re-election to his Senate seat amid his presidential bid. Aides to both now play down the past.

Edwards' more immediate travels will take him to Ohio, where he is speaking Saturday night at a Democratic Party dinner.

On Monday, he plans to campaign in Colorado with Democratic Senate candidate Ken Salazar. He will appear Tuesday in Illinois with Democratic Senate candidate Barack Obama.

Next month's schedule includes party events in Florida, Louisiana and Iowa. Edwards spokeswoman Kim Rubey said Edwards is attending all three events at the request of John Kerry's presidential campaign. Edwards is widely thought to be auditioning as Kerry's running mate, though he has declined to say publicly that he is interested in the job.

By staff writer Amy Gardner and Washington correspondent John Wagner. Gardner can be reached at 829-8902 or agardner@newsobserver.com.

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