- The Washington Times - Monday, July 4, 2005

MoveOn.org, the leftist, anti-war Internet group that spent millions of dollars last year trying to elect liberals and posted a clip likening President Bush to a Nazi, is raising money for two Democratic Senate candidates who call themselves mainstream moderates.

The group, which has been running TV ads against the war in Iraq, is soliciting money on its political action committee’s (PAC) Web site for the 2006 campaigns of Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, and Robert Casey Jr., Pennsylvania’s state treasurer.

Mr. Nelson is seeking re-election, and Mr. Casey is running as a pro-life Democrat against Republican Sen. Rick Santorum.

The MoveOn PAC’s fundraising solicitations, authorized by both men, praise Mr. Nelson as “a solid progressive earns strong ratings from environmental groups labor unions,” and says that Pennsylvania MoveOn members “overwhelmingly” support Mr. Casey.

“If there was any doubt that Casey Jr. is aligned with the ultra-liberal left, he put it to rest,” said Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “When you are dependent on the efforts of groups like MoveOn, it is difficult to then disassociate yourself from their agenda with any credibility.”

Mr. Nelson, who was elected in 2000 with 51 percent of the vote, is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in next year’s congressional elections. A large field of Republicans, led by Rep. Katherine Harris, is vying for the nomination against Mr. Nelson in a conservative state that Mr. Bush easily carried last year.

Mrs. Harris’ campaign advisers think the MoveOn fund-raising efforts will raise questions in the minds of many voters about Mr. Nelson’s claims to be a conservative Democrat. The senator earned a 76.7 percent liberal rating in the National Journal’s vote index.

“It’s hard to be what you’ve never been,” said Adam Goodman, a Harris campaign spokesman.

Mr. Casey, who announced his candidacy earlier this year, has been running what Republicans are calling a “stealth” campaign in which he says little about his positions on the issues, makes few appearances and lets surrogates speak for him.

But Republican Party strategists now think the association with MoveOn, which called for “moderation and restraint in responding to the recent terrorist attacks against the United States,” could undermine that strategy.

“Casey is saying one thing in Pennsylvania and another thing in Washington and selling his soul to one of the most extreme liberal groups in all of America that is out of touch with mainstream voters,” said John Brabender, a campaign strategist for Mr. Santorum.

“What’s happening is that Bob Casey is saying he wants the liberals’ money and I believe he is winking at them, saying that he is going to be with him in the end,” Mr. Brabender said. “But he can’t say that in Pennsylvania.”

Some Democratic strategists were defensive about the MoveOn fundraising for their candidates in interviews last week, saying that taking the group’s money did not mean that they agree with MoveOn’s political views.

“A politician can accept support from individuals and organizations but not necessarily agree with the givers’ agenda, and that’s the case here,” said Ron Sachs, a spokesman for Florida Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman.

“I don’t know if Nelson embraces MoveOn or if he agrees with them. It’s one thing to receive their support, but it does not denote that Nelson shares their agenda,” he said.

Republicans have been waging an e-mail campaign that has bombarded both states with information about MoveOn’s support for Mr. Nelson and Mr. Casey.

“We’ve sent out letters, updates and reports consistently in the last several months,” said NRSC spokesman Brian Nick.

But Phil Singer, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, dismisses the attacks as “a smoke screen to cover up the fact that they are pursuing an agenda to cut Social Security benefits and services for our veterans.”


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