Republicans Swift Boat President Obama -- Are We Surprised?

As expected, the swift boating of the President has begun and will likely continue until Election Day. God forbid Mitt Romney would actually engage on the issues. No, he just lets his surrogates make attack ads like this one which, by the way,

As expected, the swift boating of the President has begun and will likely continue until Election Day. God forbid Mitt Romney would actually engage on the issues. No, he just lets his surrogates make attack ads like this one which, by the way, do not mention any specific Navy SEAL with an objection but simply contend that SEALs object.

How convenient.

Here are some facts you should know about the Veterans for a Strong America, the 501(c)(4) non-profit group sponsoring the ad, via MoJo:

[Joel] Arends got his start in politics as a South Dakota Bush-Cheney field director in 2000. He's currently the Republican party head in Lincoln County, South Dakota. Though he doesn't list it on his public résumé, around 2006 Arends went to work for Craig Dewey, the state director of Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy outfit that's astroturfed everything from the tea party and theWisconsin union fight to public school segregation. (AFP's nonprofit 501(c)3 wing ischaired by David Koch, who founded the Americans for Prosperity Foundation with his brother Charles.)

"I was consulting with Americans for Prosperity on a state level, helping to connect them with key decision makers," Arends says. Craig Dewey initially denied this to me in a phone conversation. "Joel was never on paid staff at Americans for Prosperity," he said before conceding, "He was an adviser to me."

After leaving AFP, Arends and Dewey went into business starting "grassroots" issue groups whose names tended to overstate their reach. There was Combat Veterans for Congress, a Sarah Palin-endorsed PAC that pushed "fiscally conservative" vets to run for office; the Coalition for Cures Not Cloning, set up to combat stem-cell research; and Children Need Parents, a group that succeeded in altering the South Dakota's mom-friendly divorce and custody laws. They also oversaw efforts to roll back EPA regulations, punish businesses that dealt with Iran, and ban Shariah law in South Dakota.

[...]

As an "independent" nonprofit, VFF tried to downplay its ties to the Bush-Cheney and McCain-Palin campaign teams. It also had ties to the Donatelli Group, the conservative fundraisers who'd seeded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. Arends and most of VFF's leadership have since moved on to lucrative or influential positions in the conservative establishment. "Everybody left VFF happy," he says.

There's many, many more ties in that article. Read the whole thing.

Personally, I think it's dumb to put an ad in front of people reminding them that President Obama made that call. I think it's even dumber to claim there are angry SEALs and not produce even one, just claim they know there are some.

As for funding, we don't know, because they don't have to disclose. But pick one of the top Swift Boat Veterans donors or your favorite Republican big money donor and figure it's one of them. That guess is as good as anyone's.

Arends should be very careful, because he basically said a little bit too much.

Joel Arends, VFSA's founder, chairman, and sole staffer, tells me he's proud of his organization's viral video, even if it's characterized as swift boating. "Yes, it's the swift boating of the president, in the sense of using what's perceived to be his greatest strength and making it his greatest weakness."

Here's the problem with that. VFSA is a 501(c)(4) organization, which means it's supposed to have a purpose that's for "social welfare". Yes, they are allowed to engage in political activities and ads, but those are supposed to be issue-oriented ads, as a general rule. Arends has basically admitted that this ad, and others he has planned, are intended to target the President politically, not educationally.

I'm not in a position to say one way or the other, but if I were the IRS, I'd be looking really hard at organizations like this which are intended to be major smear players on the general election landscape. I'd be asking why they're not required to disclose independent expenditures, and I'd also be asking whether Fox News gets to air this thing over and over again without having to declare the air time an in-kind political contribution.

Yes, I know everyone will shake their head and point to Citizens United. But part of the discussion in the majority opinion was that allowing unlimited corporate contributions did not mean unlimited undisclosed contributions. If they want to go the swift boat route, they should be man enough to admit who is paying for it.

In the end, I don't see this ad really doing a lot of damage to the President anyway, which makes me smile when I think about how much money they're wasting on it. But it really galls me that they're using the subterfuge of "social welfare" organizations to play their cowardly, dirty little games.

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