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527 Watch: Last Pacs Standing

In the spring, both Barack Obama and John McCain strongly discouraged 527 groups from running attack ads, telling their major donors not to fund them. It actually worked well--chilling a number of efforts like David Brock's Progressive Media USA, the Voter Fund, and Freedom's Watch.

Then, in late summer, some reports indicated Obama and McCain were rethinking their opposition to such ads. After all, they're a useful way to offset funding shortfalls and open up unorthodox new lines of attack. But by then it was too late. As NPR and the Fix have reported, most 527 groups were incapable of remobilizing so quickly--leaving the bulk of dirty work to established interest groups, re-purposed advocacy groups, and Sarah Palin.

VoteVets, which is running this new ad that savages McCain for skipping out on Jim Webb's G.I. Bill, falls into the re-purposed advocacy category. Like its conservative counterpart Vets For Freedom, this combination PAC/501(c)3 group is a high-impact holdover from the 2006 election cycle and the 2007 Congressional battles over Iraq withdrawal. But they're far more involved than VFF in backing politically-friendly veterans running for Congress. In addition to hitting McCain, they're a major donor to anti-war candidates and other PACs--they've also run ads attacking Republicans in Maine, Colorado, North Carolina, and New Mexico.

Although it was founded by Iraq vet-turned-Kerry staffer Jon Soltz, VoteVets' advisory board is festooned with establishment figures like Les Gelb, Lawrence Korb, Bob Kerrey, and Wesley Clark. Likewise, the group's major donors include a high concentration of Democratic power players, including Howard Wolfson, Obama's PAC HopeFund Inc., Harry Reid's PAC,, AFSCME, and the SEIU.

--Barron YoungSmith