Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2006, 12:00 am

527 group wades into Iowa governor's race

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A group funded primarily by Republican political donors is on the air with an ad in the governor's race that asks Iowans to compare the candidates.

The ad, though, leaves little doubt about the preferred candidate: Jim Nussle.

The Democrat, Chet Culver, is described as a candidate who would risk state pension funds, toss out a law listing English as Iowa's official language and back government's power to seize private property.

In each instance, the ad lauds Republican Jim Nussle's position.

The ad, funded by a group called the Iowa First Foundation, is the most recent salvo by so-called 527 groups, a name that refers to a section of tax law that outlines the rules for such organizations. Groups that fall under 527 status can accept unlimited donations for voter mobilization and issue advertisements.

Groups supporting both parties were active in the 2004 presidential campaign, but ads by one organization, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, gained special attention for its ads attacking the military credentials of Democratic nominee John Kerry.

Drake political science professor Dennis Goldford said he's not surprised that 527 groups have entered the Iowa governor's race.

"They were very successful against Kerry in 2004. It's probably emboldened them to play a role this time," he said.

Goldford said the Iowa First Foundation's ad was a good example of how 527 groups operate.

"They never actually lie," he said. "They just don't tell the whole truth or they don't provide you with context so you can understand where you're coming from."

Such groups aren't allowed to coordinate their work with candidates, and Nussle spokeswoman Maria Comella said his campaign has nothing to do with the Iowa First effort.

"While we were unaware and uninvolved with this ad, it should come as no surprise that a third party group wants to speak out on the issues shaping the Iowa governor's race since this campaign is one of the most competitive in the country," Comella said.

Officials from Culver's campaign said the ad skews Culver's view on pension investment and eminent domain.

At the end of the ad, now running on television stations in the Des Moines market, an announcer refers viewers to a Web site, www.comparecandidates.org. The site reiterates the comparisons mentioned in the ad and asks visitors to check back for more updates.

"This is a classic move by a campaign that's losing momentum and trailing in the polls," said Taylor West, a spokeswoman for Culver's campaign. "They get their well-funded friends to come in and pay for this ad. It's a Washington style of doing things, and it's not surprising to see these things from the Nussle campaign."

Complete donation records for the Iowa First Foundation will not be available until later this year, but the most recent numbers show at least one donor, Marvin Pomerantz, has given to both the Iowa First Foundation and Nussle's campaign for governor. According to records, Pomerantz gave $10,000 to Nussle's campaign for governor as well as $25,000 to the Iowa First Foundation.

A message left at Pomerantz's office Friday was not returned.

West said it was possible Democratic-leaning 527 groups could chime in on Culver's behalf -- a development that wouldn't surprise Goldford.

"We'll see it -- probably from both sides," Goldford said. "I just hope Iowa voters will take the time to get enough information and assess the true claims."