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Please begin with an informative title:

This is the pettiest FEC complaint ever, and particularly ironic considering who filed it.

Sen. Russ Feingold says he “supports” the messages he places on television.

But the conservative American Future Fund contends that doesn’t mean he necessarily “approves” of them.... [A] Federal Election Commission complaint filed against the endangered three-term Wisconsin incumbent is based solely on his use of one word.

Unlike most federal candidates who use the word “approve” to OK the messages they put on the air to satisfy the FEC’s disclosure requirement, Feingold chooses the word “support.”

The story goes on to explain that, no, the word "approve" doesn't have to be included in the disclosure statement and that the complaint is utterly frivolous. But it does give us an opportunity to look at the American Future Fund a little more closely. They came under scrutiny in 2008,  as "one of the most ambitious conservative independent expenditure groups to emerge" in the election. Their media consultants, Ben Ginsburg and Larry McCarthy, "played key roles" in two of the most famous smear ads in recent political history--the Swift Boat liars ad against Kerry and the repulsive and racist Willie Horton ad in 1988. Ginsberg was chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004, and was forced to resign when his coordination with the Swift Boaters was revealed. In addition to those two paragons, the group is staffed up by a bunch of Republican Iowa establishment types.

AFF has a history of complaints against it for violating federal election law with ads that "constitute blatant electoral advocacy." In 2008, they ran ads against Al Franken that resulted in FEC complaints. They're at it again this year, and Public Citizen, Protect Our Elections and the Center for Media and Democracy have asked the FEC to investigate whether they must register as a political committee.

American Future Fund reportedly has devoted more than half its advertising spending this year – approximately $3 million as of a few days ago – on television ads that expressly call on voters to vote for or against particular candidates, the complaint said, citing a recent New York Times analysis. These ads attack candidates in more than a dozen congressional districts, such as Reps. Mark Schauer (D-Ind.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) and West Virginia State Sen. Mike Oliverio, also a Democrat.

Including ads that expressly tell voters how they should vote and other ads with electioneering messages, American Future Fund, created in 2007, has spent nearly $8.8 million so far to influence the 2010 elections, making it among the highest-spending groups participating in electioneering, according to Public Citizen’s analysis of FEC records. The organization’s website even highlights its efforts to “target” what it calls “liberal politicians.” And according to published reports, the group plans to spend up to $25 million on the elections.

As a 501(c)(4) organization, they don't have to comply with pesky disclosure ads, so like all the other GOP/corporate entities flooding the airwaves these days, we don't know who is paying for their illegal ads. But their concern over Russ Feingold's choice of wording in his ads is duly noted.

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Originally posted to Daily Kos on Fri Oct 29, 2010 at 06:16 PM PDT.

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