Meet the Attack Dogs - 2004-03-12
That's when Americans for Job Security (AJS) appeared on the scene. Launched in 1997 with a million-dollar contribution from the American Insurance Association, the Virginia-based AJS claims to have 500 members. It's impossible to know if that's the truth since the group refuses to release a membership list or divulge how much special interest money is funneled through the organization. It does admit that it uses corporate money. It's unclear if one person or many finance any given AJS campaign. You can't find out without a subpoena. AJS is a 501(c)(6) organization and is allowed in most state elections to run so-called third-party "issue advocacy" ads, purportedly to educate voters. In the radio, television, or direct mail advertisements it sponsors, AJS doesn't have to reveal anything about itself other than its name. Since its founding, it's estimated the group has spent about $26 million on political races all over the nation, including $8.5 million in 2002 and $7.5 million in 2000.
The way AJS President Mike Dubke explains it, the organization is just an assemblage of public interest-minded champions of free enterprise educating voters on the records of politicians who want to gouge taxpayers. As a third-party group, AJS cannot legally coordinate with candidate campaigns nor can it explicitly call for the election or defeat of a candidate. That might be seen as a campaign contribution. Instead, AJS just scours the known universe of elections in the United States, from the lowliest state board of education race to U.S. Senate campaigns, looking to make a difference. And as it combed through all the ongoing political races in the country late last year, it just happened to come across a special election in East Texas.
"Basically the thrust of our organization is to advocate pro-market, pro-paycheck issues across the country," says Dubke. "In Texas, our piece concerning Tommy Merritt was right up our alley, talking about an individual who wants to raise taxes on goods and services and basically take more money out of the pockets of the average citizen."