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Writer Is Top 'Texans' Donor

The Race to the White House

'Seinfeld' scribe gives to group offering a reward for proof of Bush Guard service.

September 15, 2004|Lisa Getter | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A Hollywood television writer is the largest donor to Texans for Truth, the independent liberal group that offered $50,000 Tuesday to anyone who can prove that President Bush fulfilled his National Guard service in 1972.

Daniel O'Keefe, a consulting producer for the Jason Alexander CBS sitcom, "Listen Up," contributed $100,000 to the group, far surpassing all other donors to the 527 organization. He has also written for "Seinfeld" and "The Drew Carey Show."

The group, which formed in response to a conservative 527 that had been attacking Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kerry's Vietnam War service record and antiwar activity, had collected about $400,000 from approximately 6,000 donors, its founder, Glenn Smith, said Tuesday.

The so-called 527 groups, named for the tax code that helped create them, have emerged as an important force in this year's presidential race, spending tens of millions of dollars on television advertising in the battleground states where the election is expected to be closest.

Even though a campaign- finance reform law curtailed the amount individuals can donate to political parties, the 527s are allowed to collect and spend unlimited contributions as long as they don't coordinate their plans with the campaigns.

Most of the money contributed to Texans for Truth has come in small amounts.

In addition to the large donation from O'Keefe, the group has received two $5,000 donations, including one from Michael Kieschnick, the president of Working Assets, a San Francisco-based telecommunications firm that donates part of each customer's payment to progressive causes.

The other $5,000 donor is Carol Golden of Princeton, N.J.

Texans for Truth also received one $2,000 contribution and 16 donations of $1,000, records filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission show.

In comparison, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- the group attacking Kerry -- has collected $6.7 million from more than 53,000 donors. Its largest contribution so far is $500,000.

Nevertheless, the liberal group said Tuesday it had enough money to offer a $50,000 reward to anyone with "original information" who proves Bush fulfilled "all required duties and drills" between May 1972 and May 1973 at Dannelly Air National Guard Base in Alabama.

The group said it was seeking "firsthand, eyewitness testimony" or "copies of genuine and authentic documents" that would stand up in court.

"George W. Bush continues to mislead the American people, dodging the truth about his military record," Smith said. "If the president won't come clean that he dodged his military responsibilities in Alabama during the height of the Vietnam War, we'll continue our search for the whole story."

The group began running television ads Monday in five states -- Arizona, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Pennsylvania -- featuring a former Air National Guard lieutenant who said he never saw Bush while the president says he served on a Montgomery air base.

Smith said he was surprised by the donation from O'Keefe, whom he had never met. He said it was made in response to a mass e-mail campaign sent out, in part, by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, another 527.

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