- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

So far, John Kerry has been the direct beneficiary of an estimated $60 million worth of “independent” TV ads, many of which viciously attack President Bush. Ostensibly independent — though clearly Democratic-oriented — 527 political organizations, such as MoveOn.org and the Media Fund, have been financing TV ads and other political activities with unlimited soft-money contributions, which the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance legislation prohibited national political party committees from receiving after the 2002 election.

Following the Super Tuesday primaries on March 2, Mr. Kerry embarked on a fund-raising juggernaut that has effectively matched the Bush-Cheney totals, which were once believed to be unapproachable. Indeed, through July, Mr. Kerry’s campaign has raised $234 million compared to Mr. Bush’s $242 million. Meanwhile, throughout this period, Democratic 527 organizations, so-named for the IRS section that governs them, have been saturating the airwaves and cable channels, supplementing Mr. Kerry’s own bulging campaign coffers.

Democratic 527s have overwhelmed their Republican counterparts, effectively permitting Mr. Kerry to monopolize this McCain-Feingold soft-money loophole. The relatively tiny effort by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth proves the point, which the New York Times completely missed in its Page 1 story on Friday. Instead, the NYT was upset over the fact that the veterans received $225,000 of its initial $500,000 stake from two Texans. The amounts were $200,000 from real estate executive Bob Perry, whom the NYT identified as “the top donor to Republicans in the state,” and $25,000 from Harlan Crow, “the seventh-largest donor to Republicans” in Texas. By the standards established by Democratic 527 donors, Mr. Perry would be a piker, while Mr. Crow’s contribution would not even qualify as a rounding error. In fact, based on data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, 21 of the 22 individuals who have contributed at least $500,000 to 527s have donated a cumulative $56.7 million to Democratic-oriented groups. These include Peter Lewis ($14 million), George Soros ($12.6 million) and Steven Bing ($8.1 million). The sole exception among the 22 is Carl Lindner, who has donated $1.02 million to Republican-oriented 527s.

Mr. Perry also was identified as an “associate” of Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s chief political aide. With Mr. Rove having worked for numerous Texas politicians, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, an association between a Texas political strategist (Mr. Rove) and the leading Texas political contributor should hardly be surprising. The NYT sought to buttress what it called “a web of connections” linking Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Bush family by noting that Texas lawyer John O’Neill, a founding member of the group, had a law partner who once served as general counsel to Mr. Bush when he was governor of Texas. Making matters even more sinister, in the eyes of the New York Times, is the additional fact that then-Gov. Bush appointed the wife of another O’Neill law partner as a judge on the state court of appeals.

None of this, of course, in any way demonstrates an illegal conspiracy between the veterans group and the Bush campaign. If Mr. Kerry is really looking for a smoking gun, he ought to examine the Media Fund (total receipts: $27.2 million), which is run by former Clinton Deputy Chief of Staff Harold Ickes, and America Coming Together (total receipts: $26.9 million). The chief spokesman for both of these Democratic 527s is Jim Jordan, who happens to be Mr. Kerry’s former campaign manager. Not surprising, a separate article appearing in Friday’s New York Times regarding Federal Elections regulation of 527s mentioned Mr. Jordan in his capacity as spokesman for the Media Fund and ACT, but neglected to mention his Kerry connection.

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