Washington Prowler

The Way It’s Done

How Kerry and MoveOn cooperate. Plus: Kerry disaster relief.

By 8.23.04

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THE PLEASURE OF HIS COMPANY
Sen. John Kerry probably didn't gain any votes while traveling through parts of Florida on Friday. The candidate walked through ravaged trailer parks and decimated neighborhoods, and attempted to comfort some of the people who were returning to rebuild their lives. Kerry, in speaking with reporters, called what he was seeing "inspiring."

"Not sure what's so inspiring about me not having help," said a resident of a trailer park Kerry visited. "He wasn't offering anything. He just wanted to come here because the president came here."

Kerry did travel with Sen. Bill Nelson, some of whose staff advanced the trip and attempted to pick areas that were most heavily hit by Hurricane Charley. But what neither Kerry nor Nelson would tell reporters was that Federal Emergency Management Agency officials had already passed through many of the areas they toured and were helping many in the community.

Earlier on Friday, Kerry had attended a meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, with unemployed workers. The North Carolina Kerry campaign had organized a rally for the candidate at his hotel on Thursday night. The campaign was able to pull about 100 volunteers into the lobby to greet the candidate, but when the campaign attempted to get more folks to attend, they got few volunteers.

"There was a big party down the street from the hotel, about 500 or 600 people were there listening to a live band," a Kerry volunteer said. "But there weren't many interested in coming to meet Senator Kerry. It was a disappointing turnout."

A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
On Friday, Kerry campaign spokesman Debra Deshong was telling any reporter who would listen that there was a big difference between the negative advertisements being run by George Soros-funded MoveOn.org and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: "MoveOn.org is an independent organization that existed well before the Kerry campaign," she said, whereas the veterans group "is not an independent group."

Deshong denied that the campaign had any knowledge about MoveOn.org's financing or motives or plans in its almost $20 million attacks against President Bush. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has spent about $800,000 on its advertising.

In fact, according to a Kerry campaign volunteer, staff members and volunteers of the Kerry campaign in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles have been in almost constant contact with MoveOn.org staffers, including advanced viewing and reviews of MoveOn.org television commercials, online ads, and web content. As well, MoveOn.org staffers provided the Kerry campaign with opposition research within the past two months, as well as advance looks at speeches made by MoveOn.org speakers, including former Vice President Al Gore.

"We're always running into those guys," says a Kerry campaign volunteer in Washington, about MoveOn.org staffers. "We socialize with them, we see them at meetings, we can't avoid it. And of course we talk about the campaign. In some cities, we get our volunteers from MoveOn. No one has ever raised an issue about it."

In some cases, it isn't just volunteers that the Kerry campaign is getting from MoveOn.org. They are hiring them too. In April, the Kerry campaign hired MoveOn's special projects and research director Zach Exley to oversee Kerry's campaign's website. At the time, the Kerry campaign made a point of saying that Exley was joining the campaign with not a single scrap of paper or computer disk from his time with MoveOn.

But Exley didn't need to bring much. According to another Kerry adviser, there were already so many back-channel relationships between the two organizations, Exley's presence to foster more was unnecessary. "As soon as it was clear Kerry had the nomination, we began coordinating. It's all done through the DNC and the AFL-CIO, which is financing many of the other groups out there running anti-Republican advertising. We will sit on conference calls, but we won't take part. We just take notes, then confer with our folks inside the DNC. That's the way it's done."

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