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August 23, 2010 at 4:28 PM

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Who's behind new anti-Patty Murray ads?

Posted by Jim Brunner

A secretive conservative group called the Committee for Truth in Politics has launched negative television ads against Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray.

What's unusual about the latest attack isn't so much the ad content. The 30-second spot is pretty standard anti-D.C., anti-incumbent fare, bashing Murray for voting for bank bailouts and deficit spending.

But the group behind it, despite its "Truth" moniker, is best known for working hard to conceal the identities of its donors.

It sued the Federal Election Commission in 2008 to prevent disclosure of donors to two anti-Obama ads - one of which falsely accused Obama of supporting early release for sex offenders, according to Factcheck.org. That case is still ongoing.

More recently, the group spent millions opposing the Wall Street reform legislation approved by Congress.

The group, reportedly started by a North Carolina Republican operative, has been represented by Indiana attorney, James Bopp Jr., one of the leading opponents of campaign-finance disclosure in the country.

Bopp has argued that political donations are protected free speech that shouldn't be chilled with burdensome disclosure regulations. (A phone message left with his office was not immediately returned this afternoon.)

Bopp was the initial attorney for conservative activists in the landmark "Citizens United" case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations, nonprofits and unions were free to spend big money directly to influence presidential and congressional elections.

Bopp has local connections too. He represented Washington gay marriage opponents in their recent unsuccessful effort to shield initiative petition signatures from public disclosure.

Bopp also represented Murray's Republican challenger, Dino Rossi, in a 2007 Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) complaint filed by the state Democratic Party

The complaint alleged that a nonprofit Rossi founded had illegally acted as a political committee supporting his 2008 gubernatorial campaign. But the PDC investigation rejected that claim and cleared Rossi.

Democrats blasted the new ads in a news release Monday, referring to the group as one of "Dino's shady pals" eager to distort Murray's record of "standing up for Main Street."

Sadie Weiner, a Democratic Party spokeswoman, said it appears between $200,000 and $300,000 is being spent in the ad in the Seattle market over the next week and a half.

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Contributors

Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.