Free Enterprise Coalition
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
- "No website, no employees, a disconnected phone and a lapsed corporate registraton. Without the 990s, you would be hardpressed to know the GOP funneled $2.8 million through the Free Enterprise Coalition to fund election-related legal expenses between 2004 and 2005," Mrs. Panstreppon wrote May 28, 2007, at TPM Cafe.
Although the Free Enterprise Coalition was registered September 19, 1998, Panstreppon found, "according to its 2004 990, the Coalition had little, if any, activity prior to 2004." Registered as a Virginia State Corporation, with the address 1323 Pendleton Street, Columbia, SC 29201, the corporation was automatically terminated January 31, 2007.
Panstreppon consulted 990s to find that Free Enterprise Coalition board members—"and the number of hours per week they devoted to the Coalition"—included:
- Robert L. Livingston, Chairman
- Edward T. McMullen, Treasurer
- Mark Elam
- Richard Heffley
- Dalton L. Oldham
- Oscar Persons
Other FEC Affiliations
- Client of Conquest Communications Group, a Republican Party-affiliated provider of "direct contact and message consulting services." 
- William M. Todd, Esq., Sanders & Dempsey LLP, served as "general counsel for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce" as well as litigation counsel for Free Enterprise Coalition. 
Political Contributions / Receipts
Panstreppon found "three instances of GOP candidates disbursing money to a Free Enterprise Coalition in Washington DC in 2006, one as recent as five months ago."
- "On 12/21/06, Mac Thornberry (R-TX) disbursed $10,000 to the Free Enterprise Coalition in Washington DC for legal expenses."
- Panstreppon notes: "Thornberry paid the Free Enterprise Coaltion at the end of December  yet the Coalition let its corporate registration lapse one month later. Seems to me that the Coalition was suddenly in a hurry to go out of business. Why? ... Maybe the Free Enterprise Coalition going out of business has something to do with the burgeoning DOJ scandal."
- "On 9/14/06, Michael Burgess (R-TX) contributed $10,000 [September 14, 2006] to the Free Enterprise Coalition in Washington DC. The contribution is categorized as 'non-federal'."
- "On 2/15/06 Kenny Marchant, a candidate for Texas state office, contributed $7.500 to: Free Enterprise Coalition, 499 S. Capitol St, Ste 600, Washington DC 20003."
Additionally, John Linder (R-Ga.) contributed $1,225 for the 2005-2006 Cycle.
On the internet, Panstreppon "found only two references to legal cases involving the Coalition." The first was from a December 14, 2005, press release by the NAACP's Project Vote (Web): "In Ohio, a lawsuit funded by the conservative Free Enterprise Coalition and litigated by the law firm of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick (Web) collapsed on October 28."
"In March 2005, Congressman Bob Ney held a U.S. House Administrative hearing at the Ohio Statehouse where a general counsel for the brand new voting rights group, the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), told the Congressional committee that the voting problems in Ohio were the result of the NAACP paying people with crack in order to entice them to register to vote. ACVR's general counsel, Mark F. "Thor" Hearne, turned out to be the former national general counsel for Bush-Cheney '04 Inc., with no history of working in a voting rights organization. Hearne relied on a lawsuit filed against the NAACP in Wood County, Ohio 'alleging fraudulent voter registration under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act'," Bob Fitrakis wrote December 30, 2005, for The Free Press.
"Hearne wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice in March 2005 claiming there was 'substantial evidence to suggest potential criminal wrongdoing by organizations such as Americans Coming Together (ACT), ACORN and the NAACP – Project Vote.' ...
"Cliff Arnebeck, the attorney representing the NAACP, denounces this as a deliberate racist disinformation campaign to divert attention from Ohio's election theft," Fitrakis wrote. Arnebeck said that the Republicans were "using racist code words"—"crack cocaine". "The Wood County case was withdrawn in June 2005, but not before it was revealed that the plaintiff, Mark Rubick, had been 'indemnified' and held 'harmless' by an obscure group, the Free Enterprise Coalition, with ties to the Republican Party. Signing as the 'Authorized representative' for the Coalition was one Alex Vogel", who served as chief counsel to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and previously as deputy counsel to the Republican National Committee and "as a campaign lawyer for Bush-Cheney 2000 during the election recount." 
In a February 2006 update, Fitrakis wrote that Mark Rubick, a "local Republican operative", had filed "an Ohio corrupt practices act suit against the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, ACT-Ohio and ACORN. The suit was later quietly withdrawn after discovery showed that the operatives behind it were linked to the top levels of the Republican Party."
The second case Panstreppon found was a joint brief amicus curiae in support of Republican Governor Rick Perry "in the Texas redistricting case" filed by the Free Enterprise Coalition and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Panstreppon wrote that, "[a]ccording to a list of case documents on the Jenner & Block website, the RNC also filed a brief amicus curiae on the same day."
Note: Case 05-439 "v. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, et al." was docketed October 5, 2005. The joint brief amicus curiae and the RNC brief were filed February 1, 2006.
Earlier Free Enterprise Coalition
In 1998, there was another Republican front group called the Free Enterprise Coalition that was founded by Tommy Hopper to oppose a state income tax in Tennessee. 
The FEC "successfully defeated attempts by three governors to pass tax increases, while being outspent ten-to-one." 
The Free Enterprise Coalition, c/o Robert P. Odell Jr., President, 1320 Washington Street, Columbia, SC 292901, was listed among Tax Exempt/NonProfit Organizations in April 1999.
Mrs. Panstreppon writes May 29, 2007, at TPM Cafe that "Hopper's Free Enterprise Coalition, Inc. is not the one under investigation here. According to the Tennesee Secretary of State, Free Enterprise Coalition, Inc. was a domestic corporation registered in 1999 and dissolved in 2001."
The Exempt Organizations Information Center (NonProfitData.com) cites the following information for Free Enterprise Coalition:
Free Enterprise Coalition
7704 Leesburg Pike Suite 400
Falls Church, VA 22043-2612
Related SourceWatch Resources
- "Who is Tommy Hopper?" Senate Majority Project, undated.
- Rachel Zoll, "Tennessee Conservative Union launches 'Ax the Tax' campaign," Associated Press (The Oak Ridger), April 21, 1999.
- "Senate Battle, Key House Seats Highlight 2000 Elections," The Insider/Tennessee Association of Business, June 2000.
- "Hopper vows to fight 'unconstitutional attack' on Free Enterprise Coalition," Associated Press (The Oak Ridger), June 9, 2000 (cache file).
- Profile: Tommy Hopper, CampaignUniversity.com (archived), April 10, 2001.
- "Competition, Partisanship, and Congressional Redistricting," A Brookings Institution/Institute of Governmental Studies Conference, April 16, 2004. Panel 3: "The Law of Redistricting" included Discussants: Sam Hirsch, Jenner & Block LLP, and Dale Oldham, Free Enterprise Coalition".
- "One Year Later: Results of 2004 Voter Fraud Investigations Give Vote Groups a Clean Slate. Community Group ACORN Vindicated as Baseless Lawsuits, Investigations Collapse," Project Vote (Common Dreams), December 14, 2005.
- Bob Fitrakis, "Fake voting rights activists and groups linked to White House," The Free Press, December 30, 2005.
- Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman, "As Alito takes Supreme Court seat, Ohio GOP guts election protection," The Free Press, February 1, 2006.
- "ACORN Voter Registration Drive Investigated," OMB Watch, November 7, 2006.
- Mrs. Panstreppon, "Free Enterprise Coalition: GOP Vanishing Act," TPM Cafe, May 28, 2007. See comments.