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CAMPAIGN 2000

McCain Puts Campaign's Focus on Ad by Bush Ally

Politics: Arizona senator holds rally in Boston decrying TV spot attacking his environmental record. Bush cites education stance.

March 05, 2000|T. CHRISTIAN MILLER and MARIA L. La GANGA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

PORTLAND, Maine — Reinvigorated by his fight against a television ad running in primary states that attack his environmental record, presidential candidate John McCain stumped through New England on Saturday, asserting that the ad campaign underscored the need for campaign reform.

McCain's chief Republican rival, George W. Bush, meanwhile, was campaigning in New York, touting his education plan and chiding McCain for having no record of accomplishment or vision for the schooling of America's children.

McCain held a rally in the heart of Boston on Saturday morning to decry the $2.5-million ad, funded by a wealthy Texas businessman whose brother is a major fund-raiser for Bush.

Borrowing a line from Bob Dole, who attacked fund-raising abuses in the 1996 presidential elections, McCain told the crowd of about 800 people that the ads running in California, New York and Ohio proved the need for campaign finance reform, his signature issue.

"Where's the outrage? . . . Are we going to allow Texas cronies of George W. Bush to hijack an election? Tell them to keep their dirty money in Texas, don't spread it all over New England and America," he said. The crowd responded with a roar, and began chanting, "No new Texas! No new Texas!"

Sam Wyly, whose brother Charles has raised more than $100,000 for Bush, anonymously financed the environmental ad under the name of a nonexistent group called "Republicans for Clean Air."

After the McCain campaign complained to the Federal Communications Commission that the ad violated licensee conditions requiring disclosure of funding sources, Wyly stepped forward to admit he had paid for the ad because of his interest in the environment. Bush denied any connection to the ad, saying he had not broken campaign finance laws that forbid cooperation between a candidate and a third party.

McCain campaign aides said they thought Bush's negative ads would help them.'

"The slimy scam of the ad will ultimately be its message," said Mike Murphy, campaign strategist. "It will work to our benefit."

Bush, pushing his education platform during Saturday's campaigning, told a rally in Rochester, N.Y.: "I'm running against a person who, when asked about education reforms, said, 'Oh well, one time I was a member of the education committee of the United States Congress.' That's not good enough to lead our party to victory."

At a rally in Hartford, Conn., Saturday evening, Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, an abortion rights advocate who had been vilified throughout the debate season by the more conservative candidates because of her stance, gave Bush her support.

"As a Republican, I endorse him because we share . . . a Republican philosophy that transcends litmus tests," she said.

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