Monday, August 23, 2004

Bush: The Kind of Groups That Helped Put Me in Office Ought to Be Illegal 

Josh Marshall, among others, has called a variety of news outlets to task for misrepresenting Strong Decisive Leader's negative remarks about 527's as a specific condemnation of the Swift Boat Veterans' smear ad impugning French-Speaking Flip-Flopper's war record. Fortunately, the White House moved swiftly to set the record straight:
President Bush said on Monday that political advertisements run by a broad swath of independent groups should be stopped, including a television advertisement attacking Senator John Kerry's war record. But the White House quickly moved to insist that Mr. Bush had not meant in any way to single out the advertisement run by veterans opposed to Mr. Kerry . . . .

The president spoke on a day when Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, in another indication of its web of ties to the Republican Party, acknowledged that a woman who helped set it up and works for it is an officer of the Majority Leader's Fund, a political action committee affiliated with the former House majority leader Dick Armey of Texas.

The name of the woman, Susan Arceneaux, is given as the contact person on the post office box that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth lists as its address. She is treasurer of the Majority Leader's Fund. Records show that like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group receives significant financing from Bob Perry, a Texan who has long supported Mr. Bush, and his company, as well as Sam and Charles Wyly, prominent Texas Republican donors. Sam Wyly, under the name "Republicans for Clean Air,'' took out advertisements in 2000 criticizing the environmental record of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona . . . .

His press secretary, Scott McClellan, said Mr. Bush had not intended to single out the Swift boat advertisement as one that should be stopped.
Now here's the sweet bit, from Paul Glastris, filling in for Kevin Drum at Political Animal:
The group [Bush's] campaign set up to cover the legal and political expenses of contesting the 2000 Florida recount was, yes, a 527. I don't know if that group, the Bush-Cheney 2000, Inc-Recount Fund, ever ran adds. But it did come close to running afoul of a law designed to force 527s to disclose their donors. And, tellingly, the disclosure law it almost broke was put in place just before the 2000 general election as a direct response to the mysterious appearance during the GOP primaries of yet another 527, Republicans for Clean Air. That group ran ads bashing John McCain's environmental voting record and praising then-Gov. Bush's. Not only were the facts in the ads a stretch, but because there was at the time no disclosure requirement, no one knew who was paying for them. The mystery was solved by the New York Times, which eventually revealed the donor to be Dallas billionaire and Bush-backer Sam Wyly. The final irony, Public Citizen's Craig Holman tells me, is that those same disclosure requirements are what made it possible for the New York Times last week to pretty quickly figure out the web of Bush cronies who supported the anti-Kerry swift boaters.
And Amy Sullivan (also at Political Animal) has the goods on a pair of Republican 527's that, with the President's direct participation, raised $24 million at a single event in July.

UPDATE: Is the tipping point finally at hand? From an editorial in tomorrow's L.A. Times:
[W]hat does Bush's acquiescence in the use of this issue say about whether he has the simple decency for the job of president?

Whether the Bush campaign is tied to the Swift boat campaign in the technical, legal sense that triggers the wrath of the campaign-spending reform law is not a very interesting question. The ridiculously named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is being funded by conservative groups that interlock with Bush's world in various ways, just as MoveOn.org, which is running nasty ads about Bush's avoidance of service in Vietnam, is part of Kerry's general milieu . . . .

There is an important difference, though, between the side campaign being run for Kerry and the one for Bush. The pro-Kerry campaign is nasty and personal. The pro-Bush campaign is nasty, personal and false.

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