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Van Hollen Concerned About GOP 527 Groups

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) signaled concern about the prospect of GOP-aligned 527 groups pouring money into contested races, according to a memo he wrote to House Democrats today.

The memo was sent to the Democratic Caucus after the party lost two special elections in heavily-Republican districts in Ohio and Virginia.  The DCCC spent $244,000 on negative advertising in the Ohio special election, in a district that President Bush carried in 2004 with 61 percent of the vote.

Van Hollen attributed the Republicans’ 14-point victory in the special election to the “strong social conservative underpinning” of the district. He said the reason that the DCCC initially spent money in the race was because their internal poll (taken in late November) showed the Democratic nominee, Robin Weirauch, only trailing Bob Latta by seven points.

He explained that the reason the DCCC did not pour money in last night’s Virginia special election was because “polling showed it was nearly impossible to overcome the Republican numbers in the district.” He added that most of the district’s undecided voters lived in the Washington, D.C. media market, which would have cost the committee over $1.5 million on advertising.

Rep.-elect Rob Wittman (R-Va.) won 60 percent of the vote against Iraq war veteran Phil Forgit in the race.

According to Van Hollen, one of several factors that helped Republicans in Ohio was the third-party money spent by Freedom’s Watch, a conservative organization headed by former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. The group spent in the six-figures on an anti-Weirauch attack ad accusing her of supporting “free healthcare for illegal aliens.”

“As we saw again in OH-05, our main competition is likely to be Republican 527s, not the NRCC. This cycle Republican 527s have pledged more than a quarter billion dollars toward beating Democrats,” Van Hollen wrote in the memo.

The chairman predicted that Freedom’s Watch is prepared to spend “an additional $200 million” against Democrats this election cycle.