BY WESLEY P. HESTER
The day after it was reported that a Super PAC had been launched to aid the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican George Allen, Democratic rival Timothy M. Kaine asked Allen to agree to a “No Secret Money” agreement.
The two former governors are locked in a high-stakes, high-profile battle for the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who defeated then-Sen. Allen in 2006. While neither has secured their party’s nomination, both are clear front-runners.
In a “Dear George” letter sent Tuesday, Kaine seized on remarks by Allen during a debate last year in which he said that he was in favor of full financial disclosure in campaigns, like Virginia’s laws require.
“Since you are unwilling to agree to exclude Super PACS entirely (as candidates in other states have done), how about basing this campaign on the Virginia principle you praised a few months ago?” Kaine wrote. “Let’s adopt a simple rule: No secret money.”
Kaine goes on to suggest that the agreement would require any group running ads or helping either candidate to disclose their donors.
How such an arrangement would work, however, is unclear. Super PACs, which can collect unlimited independent expenditures, are not permitted under federal law to coordinate directly with campaigns.
Allen responded by not-so-politely declining Kaine’s offer later in the day.
"It’s difficult for voters to take talk of transparency seriously when it comes from a campaign that is substantially funded by big union bosses and their organizations," he wrote. " In fact, most will see it as an unfortunate gimmick, typical of the partisan gamesmanship playing out in Washington today."
Allen goes on to suggest that Kaine should disavow the “compulsory union donation system that extracts money from the pockets of working men and women across America,” adding, “this will perhaps give you more credibility when speaking about transparency in donations.”
So far, three Super PACs have taken an interest in helping Allen. Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have both run ads attacking Kaine, and last week, Independence Virginia was launched to directly support Allen.