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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Just Because He's Paranoid ...

Howard Dean has spent the past few months insisting that the Democratic Washington establishment has been out to torpedo his campaign, which up to now has sounded a bit like Ross Perot's accusation that Republicans wanted to harass his daughter at her wedding. However, a strange group of donors did conspire in Iowa to run negative ads against the then-frontrunner, including some of his own donors:

Labor unions, former Democratic Sen. Bob Torricelli and one of presidential hopeful Howard Dean's own donors were among big givers to a group that ran ads criticizing Dean in three early voting states. Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values raised $663,000 last year and spent $626,840 of it, a finance report provided to The Associated Press on Tuesday showed. ... It drew some big donors, including two giving $100,000 each.

They are Slim-Fast Foods tycoon S. Daniel Abraham of Florida, who also contributed $2,000 each to Dean and several other Democratic hopefuls; and Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network LLC, a New York-based sports cable channel that televises New York Yankees' baseball games. The network's chief executive, Leo Hindery, contributed $2,000 to then-Dean rival Dick Gephardt.

Torricelli gave $50,000 out of his remaining campaign funds to the group that ran the ads, making Abraham, Hindery, and Torricelli responsible for 40% of the funding. In fact, the FEC may look into Torricelli's contribution as it may have been illegal to convert those funds to such a group. (What a surprise -- Torricelli acting unethically.) As far as Dean's fair-weather friends go, it's not unusual for donors to spread the wealth around a few campaigns, but it looks very strange that his supporters went out of their way to give money to hit ads like these.

The most interesting part of the story is how many Gephardt supporters were involved in this effort, including several of his union backers, who gave $130,000 to the effort. The group's spokesman only explains that they didn't buy a donor list from Gephardt, making it seem like a huge coincidence or that the Gephardt campaign coordinated with the group directly. Adding all this up, it's hard to blame Dean for thinking that the party machine had it in for him.

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08:54 AM in DeanWatch | Permalink

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