Editorial: Bush's comments on attack ads put issue in perspective

August 25, 2004

The John Kerry camp should have been ecstatic about President Bush's statement that a commercial sponsored by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth should be removed from the airwaves.

The Democrats weren't happy, of course, because Bush also condemned all "527s," which are non-profit advocacy groups that have poured millions into attack ads in the past year. Bush, not Kerry, has been the target of most of the ads, an estimated $60 million worth.

Organizations such as, funded by billionaire George Soros, have heaped vitriol on Bush all year. Furthermore, "Fahrenheit 9/11" by Michael Moore, another of the Democrats' "fat cats," was little more than an attack ad posing as a full-length "documentary."

Basically, in his statement Monday, Bush was saying that he favors attack-ad disarmament but not unilaterally. Bush said all of the ads should be stopped.


"That means that ad," he said of the Swift Boat ad, "and every other ad.

"I couldn't be more plain about it," Bush added. "I hope my opponent joins me in condemning these activities of the 527s."

The Republicans shouldn't hold their breath waiting for Kerry and the Democrats to condemn the activities of such organizations as, which in addition to its advertising and Web site has sponsored a series of speeches on the issues of the day by that well-known, non-partisan scholar Al Gore.

In truth, the whole situation is a mess. Federal campaign laws prohibit the Bush and the Kerry campaigns from having any connection with the 527s. Legally, the campaigns cannot tell the non-profit groups what ads to run or not to run.

That's one of the biggest hypocrisies of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law under which this presidential election is operating. These 527s are supposed to be independent but everybody knows they are not. Now, we even have the two major candidates tacitly acknowledging that fact by implying that their opponents can have some control over what their 527s do.

The Congress and President Bush should have listened to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, who fought valiantly against the passage of McCain-Feingold. Obviously, campaign finance reform has not "taken the money out of politics." It has simply shifted into another arena where the players are not accountable to either the candidates or their parties.

By closing a loophole that allowed for large contributions of "soft money" to the political parties, campaign reform created the monster called a 527. The country was better off when the money was going to the parties - at least they are accountable to the candidates they are supporting.

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