Seeking a full federal inquiry, the National Republican Senatorial Committee charged Thursday that tax-exempt corporations are being used illegally to funnel money into the campaigns of liberal candidates.
The complaint focused on Citizen Action, a 1.6-million-member nationwide lobbying force that has become increasingly active at local levels in such issues as toxic waste and health care and has generally supported Democratic candidates.
"This is a blatant political attempt to try to stifle our legitimate rights of political expression," said Robert M. Brandon, vice president and political director of Citizen Action. "There is nothing illegal about what we do."
The Republican senatorial committee said it will file official complaints Monday with the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service.
The controversy, coming at a time of increased concern in Congress over "soft" campaign contributions--funds that are designated for support of party activities rather than candidates--centers on tax-exempt grass-roots groups that are not bound by campaign contribution restrictions and disclosure laws, but are restricted in their political activities. The Republican senatorial committee alleges that Citizen Action has used its local, tax-exempt affiliates as fronts for political advocacy.
Among the local Citizen Action affiliates that are cited in the complaint are Campaign California, a tax-exempt group based in Santa Monica.