Washington Prowler

Bush League Kerry

Illegal spending schemes. Missing the bus. Vetting vets.

By 5.6.04

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COLLUSION COURSE
It appears as though the Democratic money machine isn't even trying to hide its coordination with the presidential campaign of presumptive nominee Sen. John Kerry.

Theoretically, organizations that accept and spend unregulated amounts of money are barred from using those funds for overt partisan events or advertising. They are also barred from coordinating their activities with political campaigns.

But Kerry's camp, which is in the midst of a $30 million TV ad spree in 20 states, is desperately attempting to keep up with the campaign of President Bush. "We're spending it as fast as we're pulling it in," says a Kerry fundraiser in Ohio. "It seems like every day we're getting hit for more money."

So big surprise when the Democratic and organized labor-backed New Democrat Network apparently coordinated with the Kerry campaign for Hispanic voter-outreach TV ads that will be running in Florida, Arizona, and Nevada.

The ads, while not overtly supportive of Kerry, hit on immigration and employment issues in such a way that they clearly steer potential voters to register and vote Democratic.

"They're spending more than $5 million in those states throughout the summer into the fall," says a Democratic political consultant, who is aware of the New Democrat Network's activities. "That's five mill more that Kerry doesn't have to spend in Nevada, which could be an important state for us."

According to Kerry surrogate who has done some voter outreach for the campaign, the New Democrat Network worked through intermediaries to find out where the Kerry campaign and the DNC would want their ads to run.

"This kind of coordination is being done all the time," says the Kerry surrogate. "The Republicans are doing it too. We just happen to have more money in the 527s and they like to spend it."

FURTHER FOLLY
The Kerry campaign is going to have to start doing opposition research on itself. On Tuesday, the campaign thought it was being really clever by giving political reporters around the country, but especially in Michigan and Ohio, a story about how the buses that President Bush was using for his campaign swing through those states were Canadian built.

"They were pushing the story hard, especially since Bush was using Kerry's SUV flip-flops as a punch line in every stop on the trip," says a reporter who has been covering Kerry.

The only problem is that the bus Kerry has been using throughout his primary campaign was Canadian built too. Bad: the Kerry campaign didn't know it. Worse: The Bush campaign did. "We weren't even trying to bait them," says a Bush campaign staffer.

Another embarrassing Kerry moment came Tuesday when two of Kerry's former commanding officers, former lieutenant commander George Elliott and former Coast Guard captain Adrian Lonsdale, announced they were not supporting Kerry's presidential campaign.

Both men had supported Kerry in 1996, when questions about his service in Vietnam were raised in his Senate race. The Kerry campaign was apparently caught off guard by the show of disapproval from men Kerry had once considered loyal backers.

"We knew that they weren't going to be surrogates for us, but we didn't expect this," says a Kerry staffer in Washington. "When word got out about who was standing against Senator Kerry, there was some surprise. It's not clear that we knew how many of the old military regime were against him."

According to the staffer, in the early days of the primary, when the notion of putting together Kerry's "Band of Brothers" was being toyed with, Kerry advisers reached out to many of the men who served under and above Kerry. A number took a pass on the opportunity to stand with Kerry, but many did not voice out and out displeasure with Kerry's candidacy. "We never thought we'd see the show of force these guys are showing," says the Kerry staffer. "It's not a problem. Yet."

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