BOSTON — Firing another broadside Saturday, Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis stepped up charges that Vice President George Bush relies on top advisers who were "paid agents" of Bahamanian officials suspected of drug profiteering.
Dukakis tried to turn the tables on Republicans who he said had questioned his patriotism in recent weeks.
"My staff will not have divided loyalties," the Massachusetts governor said. "In a Dukakis White House, the staff will pledge allegiance to only one flag--Old Glory."
Dukakis' charges in a prepared statement at a press conference here marked the second day in which he has attempted to move off the defensive by hammering back at Bush. On Friday, he likened the GOP attacks against him to Wisconsin Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy's smears of the 1950s.
Until Election Day
Asked how long the new attack strategy will last, one aide smiled and replied: "For 59 days," or until Election Day.
The attacks capped a grueling Labor Day campaign week that had mixed results for the struggling Democratic campaign. Dukakis drew favorable notice for an innovative proposal to create a self-financing student loan system, and won a warm embrace from his sometimes disputatious ally, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He also launched his fall TV advertising campaign, and raised more than $5 million at a black-tie party in New York.
But anti-abortion protesters disrupted a speech near Chicago, and technical problems and bad weather forced him to cancel several stops. Moreover, a surprisingly well-received speech at the American Legion convention in Louisville, Ky., was overshadowed by Dukakis' comment later that he was "not opposed" to the proposed Star Wars system, a program he long has derided as a wasteful "fantasy."
In his news conference Saturday, Dukakis said his Republican opponent has "to answer some serious questions" about a 1985 contract between the prominent Washington public relations firm of Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly Inc. with the government of Bahamas Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling.
Four members of the firm are now with the Bush campaign: campaign manager Lee Atwater, scheduler Paul J. Manafort and advisers Charles R. Black Jr. and Roger J. Stone.
In its contract proposal to the Bahamian government, the firm said its members could use a "back-channel relationship" with State Department officials and push "certain buttons" to move Congress and the White House "in the direction of Bahamian interests." The Bahamian government accepted the proposal and paid the firm $800,000 between April, 1985, and September, 1986.
The proposal and contract were widely reported earlier this week. The public relations firm and Bush campaign repeated denials of any wrongdoing Saturday.
Alixe Glen, a Bush spokeswoman, said Dukakis was "reaching down deep into the polluted Boston Harbor and is mud slinging." Noting that the lobbying contract was legal, she added: "I just think the Dukakis campaign is grabbing at straws because they don't have any new ideas on important issues facing the voters."
Firm Had Contacts
Dukakis said the firm had more than a "a dozen contacts" with the vice president's office, including the White House drug task force headed by Bush. "The American people have a right to know that the back door of the White House will not be the front door for paid agents of foreign governments," Dukakis said.
Federal prosecutors long have suspected Pindling and his aides of corruption and accepting payoffs from drug traffickers. He has not been prosecuted, but remains under investigation, federal officials have said.
Dukakis also moved Saturday to expand his campaign, which has been criticized by some prominent Democrats around the country for relying on a small Boston-based cadre of advisers. He named 12 national campaign co-chairs, including four senators and three governors.
The group includes Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York, Sen. John Glenn of Ohio, Rep. Norman Y. Mineta of California and Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia.
Dukakis also planned to meet with some Democratic congressional leaders here Saturday night and this morning to discuss defense and national security issues. Aides said he will deliver major speeches on defense and foreign policy this week.
"We'll take 'em on," Dukakis said. "I happen to think Mr. Bush is very vulnerable on defense and foreign policy issues."