Gephardt? Kerry? Some Stinkin' Gopper? Who? Who would run slanderous garbage against Dean and not Claim responsibility??
That is cowardice. Someone wanting the highest office in the land should not be allowed to get away with this atrocity. And the Washington Post agrees...
Who done it?
washingtonpost.com: Is Secrecy a Progressive Value?
SOME HARD-HITTING ADS have been running in Iowa. One compares former Vermont governor Howard Dean to President Bush, citing both men's "top grades" from the National Rifle Association. The latest notes that "Howard Dean and George Bush stood together and supported the unfair NAFTA trade agreement." At the end, the announcer intones, "So if you thought Howard Dean had a progressive record, check the facts. And please, think again." But it's not any of Mr. Dean's rivals who are seeking this reconsideration. nstead, it's a new entity that calls itself "Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values."
Values that don't include letting voters know who's footing the bill. The group has spent $230,000 for the first week of ads, but it won't say where the money is coming from. Under the out-of-sync reporting schedule that governs such groups, donors' names don't have to be revealed until early February, after the caucuses are safely over. Meanwhile, its identity is getting more and more mysterious: Early last week, its president was Timothy L. Raftis, a former aide to Sen. Tom Harkin; now, a new president has suddenly appeared on the group's Web site: former representative Edward Feighan (D-Ohio). The group's treasurer is fundraiser David Jones, who has worked for one of Mr. Dean's chief rivals, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri -- but suddenly, it has a new spokesman, John Kerry's former press secretary, Robert Gibbs, which might suggest, to the conspiracy-minded, an effort to deflect attention from a possible Gephardt connection. (The Gephardt campaign says it knows nothing about the group.)
So is the money from unions that back Mr. Gephardt but don't want to be publicly connected to this anti-Dean campaign? At least some such unions have been solicited. Or is it from a few wealthy donors who don't like Mr. Dean -- and perhaps are backing another one of the trailing Democratic candidates? From Republicans who want to take Mr. Dean down a few notches? There's no way for a voter in Iowa to know, not in time for that information to make a difference. The group could voluntarily disclose its backers before the legal deadline, but it won't. "The reason is that's what we've chosen to do. . . . We want to ensure that we have full disclosure rather than piecemeal," Mr. Raftis told us.
We've seen this kind of stealth group before. During the 2000 primary campaign, a mystery group calling itself "Republicans for Clean Air" suddenly appeared with more than $2 million in advertising supporting then-candidate George W. Bush. Brothers Charles and Sam Wyly, Dallas investors, came forward to claim responsibility, but their exploit underscored a dangerous loophole in the campaign finance system that allowed groups to avoid disclosing their activities unless they called explicitly for a candidate's election or defeat. Congress responded with a law requiring such groups to report their donations and expenditures. But it didn't think through the consequences of the reporting schedule it chose: Until the election year, groups are required to file reports only twice a year. (Disclosure is required if the groups run broadcast ads naming a candidate within 30 days of the caucus or primary, but even that rule doesn't apply to other forms of campaign activity, such as direct mail or phone calls.)
Days before Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values popped up, a more-established Republican entity, the Club for Growth, hammered Mr. Dean in Iowa and New Hampshire with $100,000 worth of spots that linked him to supposedly tax-hiking Democrats George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. Like the ads of its "progressive" cousin, those by the Club for Growth represent a disturbing way to use big checks to affect campaigns: making an end run around the usual $2,000 contribution limit. But at least the Club for Growth has been around long enough that its backers are known. And, to its credit, the club has chosen to file monthly disclosure reports.
This outside-group dodge is troubling enough when employed by those who don't pretend to believe in campaign finance reform. From those who pose as champions of "progressive values," it's despicable. "I believe strongly in the view of Thomas Jefferson that an informed electorate helps insure the strength of democracy," Mr. Raftis said on the group's Web site. Informed, that is, of what he chooses to tell them. What hypocrisy.
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