Obama takes ad grievance to Justice

Barack Obama and a conservative group have escalated their fight over the group's TV commercial linking him to a 1960s radical, by firing off dueling letters to the Department of Justice.

The Obama camp argued that the American Issues Project is violating the law. The group cited a Supreme Court ruling to argue it is allowed to air the ad, which links Obama to 1960s radical William Ayers.

American Issues Project is a 501(c)4 nonprofit corporation. Such groups are allowed to air political ads, provided the federal government determines that the group's primary purpose is not political.

The group filed a document with the Federal Election Commission last week identifying Texas billionaire Harold Simmons as the lone financier of the ad, contributing nearly $2.9 million to produce and air it. Simmons is a fundraiser for John McCain and was one of the major contributors to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which aired ads in 2004 against John Kerry.

The confrontation pits two prominent campaign finance lawyers against each other – Robert Bauer for Obama and Cleta Mitchell for the group.

As the fight escalated, the University of Illinois at Chicago released documents about Obama's work for a school reform group linked to Ayers, but details of their interactions were scant in minutes from some early board meetings.

Ayers teaches at the university. Because of his past work with Obama, some McCain backers want to highlight that Ayers helped found the Weather Underground, which took responsibility for a series of bombings, including nonfatal blasts at the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol four decades ago.

Obama and Ayers both attended some 1995 board meetings of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, which Ayers was instrumental in starting and Obama chaired in the 1990s.

Obama has said he “deplored” what Ayers did in the 1960s and that “by the time I met him, he is a professor of education at the University of Illinois. We served on a board together that had Republicans, bankers, lawyers, focused on education.”