WASHINGTON (CNN) - The American Conservative Union is denying a report it reversed policy positions in a "pay for play" lobbying controversy, distancing itself from Chairman David Keene – but acknowledged Friday it had sent a letter that seemed to pledge institutional support in exchange for corporate contributions.
Politico reported Friday that the ACU had sent FedEx a letter June 30 formally offering several avenues of support for the company's position in a tough battle with the National Labor Relations Board – including grassroots organizing, congressional lobbying, and the production of op-eds written by Keene and members of the group's board of directors.
The letter said those efforts would require financial resources of more than $2 million – and that once terms were agreed to, the ACU's institutional machinery would swing into action within hours.
FedEx never agreed to the terms; the ACU says the company never responded to the offer. Roughly two weeks later, a letter bearing the logo of several conservative groups and signatures of several conservative leaders was sent to the company's president, Frederick Smith, opposing the FedEx position. The letter included the logo of the ACU, and the name of David Keene, who was identified as the group's president.
In the Politico story, a FedEx spokesman accused the group of offering to exchange its policy positions for contributions.
In its Friday statement blasting the initial report, the ACU did not dispute the authenticity of the first letter – but it denied that Keene had been speaking for anyone other than himself in the second letter, despite the use of the group's name and logo.
"Mr. David Keene's name was on a letter prepared by another organization," said a statement issued by the group Friday, signed by executive vice president Dennis Whitfield. "This was a personal decision on his part and he was not representing ACU at the time. No permission was given by ACU, and no logo was provided by ACU, to the organization who issued the letter in question.
"ACU's policy position on this issue has not changed and it will not change.
"ACU's positions on important policy issues have never been for sale."
The ACU also said it had not received contributions from any of the group's mentioned in the Politico report, which would include both FedEx and rival UPS.
Keene has not yet reacted to the Politico story or the ACU's characterization of the July 15 letter bearing his name.