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Swift Boat Group Has Raised $6.7 Million From 53,000 Donors

Its third ad, which it takes national, attacks Kerry as discarding combat medals.

September 11, 2004|Lisa Getter | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the conservative group that has attacked Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry's Vietnam record, has raised $6.7 million from more than 53,000 donors in recent weeks, the group said Friday.

Among those contributing were the wealthy Texas brothers who helped finance controversial ads against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) when he ran against President Bush in the 2000 primary, a former member of Congress and a Los Angeles television producer.

"We have major donors and moderate-level donors," spokesman Michael Russell said, adding that the group received $182,405 from 2,681 donors on just one day this week. "It's pretty clear we are getting our message out."

The group, which has strong Republican ties, has accused Kerry of misrepresenting his actions in Vietnam and betraying his fellow veterans by coming out against the war after he left the Navy.

Though the allegations have not been substantiated, the ads have had an impact on the presidential campaign.

In a 145-page report filed with the Federal Election Commission, the group named some of its recent donors.

Texas brothers Sam Wyly and Charles Wyly Jr. each donated $10,000. The brothers, longtime financial backers of Bush, were best known for their ties to Republicans for Clean Air, which spent more than $2.5 million in 2000 attacking McCain's environmental record.

McCain has denounced the Swift Boat campaign.

Los Angeles television producer E. Duke Vincent, whose credits include "Beverly Hills 90201," "Melrose Place" and "Dynasty," contributed $25,000. Former New York Rep. Norman F. Lent gave $1,000.

Texas investor T. Boone Pickens, who recently donated $2 million to another Republican group that is running anti-Kerry ads, donated $500,000 and is the group's largest donor so far.

Dallas oil executive Albert Huddleston, a fundraiser for Bush in 2000, gave $100,000. Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who gave the group its seed money, donated $200,000 more.

New York investor Paul Singer, who has raised more than $100,000 for the Bush campaign this year, donated $5,000.

John O'Neill, a Houston attorney and Vietnam veteran, who has acted as a spokesman for the group and written a book about Kerry titled "Unfit for Command," gave more than $35,000.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is one of several so-called 527 organizations involved in this year's presidential race. The groups, identified by the federal tax code that created them, are free to raise and spend unregulated campaign contributions on political advertising so long as they do not coordinate their activity with a candidate's campaign.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth spent just $500,000 on an initial television advertising buy in early August.

The group's claims received widespread media attention, and Democratic strategists and party leaders believe they damaged Kerry's image nationwide, as reflected in recent polls.

The surge in giving will allow the group to continue to run ads on television, as well as on satellite radio. The group is also considering a direct-mail campaign.

The group began running another anti-Kerry ad on national cable television Friday. The spot, the group's third, condemns him for throwing combat medals away during an antiwar demonstration more than 30 years ago.

The ad, titled "Medals," will run for a week on CNN, MSNBC, CNN Headline News, Fox and the History Channel. The group is spending $680,000 to run the ad nationwide. "Medals" debuted in Florida and Tennessee during the Republican National Convention.

"Our message is resonating," Russell said. "We have successfully created an issue in people's minds about John Kerry's character and his fitness to be America's commander in chief."

The group has spent $709,312 since April, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign spending.

Another Texas group, founded by Democrats, is about to begin airing ads questioning Bush's National Guard service. That group, called Texans for Truth, was created in response to the Swift Boat campaign.

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Times staff writer Maria L. La Ganga contributed to this report.

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