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Overview:

 
Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA)

Stated Purpose:
Fights for legislation that reduces violent crime while preserving the rights of honest citizens, particularly the right of self-defense.

Tax Status:
501(c)(4)

Political Orientation:
Republican

Profile:
September 2004 — The Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA), an anti-gun-control organization that receives an annual grant of about $500,000 from the National Rifle Association,1 has attempted to influence state attorney general and judicial races but has also dabbled in federal contests.

The group appeared to step up its electioneering activities for the 2002 contests, spending more than $3 million combined in attorney general races in Kansas, Texas and Illinois.2 Public Citizen was unable to determine the LEAA's 2002 revenue because the group did not abide by its legal requirement to furnish its tax forms within 30 days of a written request. A complaint has been filed with the IRS. Public Citizen has obtained a partial set of the group's forms through the IRS.

The LEAA's attempts to influence political contests have often been accompanied by controversies, frequently involving alleged campaign finance irregularities.

The LEAA has figured in a Texas investigation into whether the Texas Association of Business (TAB) and Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), a 527 organization established by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R), illegally influenced the outcome of the 2002 state legislative elections in Texas.3 4

John Colyandro, who was serving both as TRMPAC's executive director and as director of policy issues for attorney general candidate Greg Abbott (R), has acknowledged to investigators that he spoke with LEAA Executive Director James Fotis at least once during the fall of 2002. The LEAA spent a reported $1.5 million on ads that disparaged Abbott's opponent as an opportunistic personal injury lawyer, while praising Abbott as a respected state Supreme Court justice.5 6

Colyandro said that Fotis and he did not discuss the Abbott campaign but rather the possibility of the LEAA getting involved in some Texas legislative races. In fact, the LEAA did get involved in some legislative races by allowing its logo to be stamped on a mailer created by the TAB -- which also stamped mailers with TRMPAC's logo.7

In a Republican attorney general primary in Kansas in 2002, the LEAA came under fire for running an ad blaming one candidate for releasing a man who "murdered four people after his parole was cut short." The suspect, however, had not been convicted. Five Kansas television stations pulled the ad. Republican Kansas Gov. Bill Graves called the ads "a shadowy political practice" and "the worst form of political speech."8

In a 2001 Pennsylvania Supreme Court contest, a county judge ordered the LEAA to pull its ads (which praised a Republican candidate while painting the Democrat as soft on crime) because the group was trying to influence the election while avoiding campaign finance disclosure laws.9 The LEAA also was forbidden from soliciting contributions in Pennsylvania because it did not file paperwork proving it was a legal non-profit, the secretary of state's spokeswoman said.10

A complaint was filed with the Illinois election board in response to LEAA's reported $1.3 million in expenditures in 2002 touting the Republican candidate in an attorney general contest, while criticizing the Democratic candidate. The board deadlocked 4-to-4 on that complaint and a similar complaint over alleged electioneering communications of the American Taxpayers Alliance, another 501(c)(4) group.11 Investigations into the two matters are ongoing. Meanwhile, the Illinois legislature has passed a law stipulating that independent groups spending more than $3,000 on communications mentioning state candidates' names in the two months before elections must file disclosure reports.12

The LEAA reported only $43,050 in political expenses in 2000 and just $2,500 in 2001 -- amounting to 1.6 percent and less than one-tenth of 1 percent, respectively, of the group's spending in those years.13


1   National Rifle Association 990 forms, 2000-2002.
2   Public Citizen's analysis of data contained in the New Stealth PACs database. Data collected from groups' Web sites and annual tax forms, press reports, academic papers on activities of independent political groups and interviews by Public Citizen research staff.
3   R.G. Ratcliff, "Travis DA Needs Ruling By Attorney General; Seeks to Avoid Disclosing Probe Details," Houston Chronicle, April 3, 2004.
4   Christy Hoppe, "Ad In AG Race Under Scrutiny," Dallas Morning News, March 9, 2004.
5   R.G. Ratcliff, "Travis DA Needs Ruling By Attorney General; Seeks to Avoid Disclosing Probe Details," Houston Chronicle, April 3, 2004.
6   Christy Hoppe, "Ad In AG Race Under Scrutiny," Dallas Morning News, March 9, 2004.
7   Laylan Copelin, "Other Groups Mailed Business Lobby's Voter Ads," Austin-American Statesman, Feb. 24, 2003.
8   Chris Grenz, "Like Them Or Not, Attack Ads Are Here To Stay," Topeka Capital-Journal, Aug. 19, 2002.
9   Thomas Fitzgerald, "Pa. Race Mirrors Trends in Nation," Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov. 3, 2001.
10   Peter L. DeCoursey, "Court Bars Group From Soliciting," Harrisburg Patriot-News, Oct. 23, 2001.
11   Bernard Schoenburg, "Election Board Delays Ruling on Garman Ads," The (Springfield, Ill.) State Journal-Register, Nov. 5, 2002.
12   Rupert Borgsmiller, Illinois State Board of Elections Director of Campaign Disclosure, Interview with Public Citizen Senior Researcher Taylor Lincoln June 24, 2004.
13   Law Enforcement Alliance of America 990 forms, 2000 and 2001.



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