Texan gives more to fight Kerry
Another $100,000 goes to Swift Boat vets
By WAYNE SLATER / Dallas Morning News
August 18, 2004
AUSTIN – A major Texas donor to the Republican Party and President Bush has given another $100,000 to an independent group challenging John Kerry's military service in Vietnam.
Houston homebuilder Bob Perry provided much of the early money for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which recently launched a television ad and book accusing Mr. Kerry of fabricating his war record. Mr. Perry's latest donation brings to $200,000 the amount he has given the organization.
"It's another sign that this group is organized and financed by Bush allies in Texas," Kerry campaign spokesman Chad Clanton said Tuesday.
Mr. Perry declined to comment.
Jennifer Webster, a spokeswoman for Swift Boat Veterans, rejected the criticism, saying the group was acting on principle, not politics.
"The Swift Boat stance is they will welcome $100,000 checks from any Democrats as well, anyone who will help them get their message out," she said.
Ms. Webster said the group has raised more than $500,000 since it began airing a 30-second television ad in the battleground states of Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan this month.
More than 9,000 contributors have given donations via the group's Web site, she said, "and we've got four bins of mail" with checks yet to be counted. She said the average donation is less than $60.
Federal law forbids presidential campaigns from coordinating with independent groups such as Swift Boat Veterans, which are permitted to raise unlimited sums to address political issues but not explicitly support a candidate.
The Kerry campaign has denounced the effort to discredit the Massachusetts senator's combat medals and military record, calling it a Republican-backed campaign orchestrated in Mr. Bush's home state.
Houston lawyer John O'Neill, who followed Mr. Kerry as a swift boat navigator in Vietnam, has led the effort to challenge the Democrat's medals and his decision to protest the Vietnam War upon his return.
Mr. O'Neill was encouraged by the Nixon White House to debate Mr. Kerry on network television in 1971 but has not spoken publicly against Mr. Kerry until this year. He said he re-emerged because he didn't want Mr. Kerry to be commander in chief.
Mr. Perry is a prolific GOP donor who backed Mr. Bush in his races for governor and president and has contributed more than $5 million to state candidates and causes in Texas since 2000 and several hundred thousand dollars to national candidates and the Republican Party.
His $100,000 to Swift Boat Veterans in June constituted most of the group's initial funding to launch its TV spot, according to federal records.
Other major contributors to the group include Dallas real estate executive and GOP fund-raiser Harlan Crow, who has contributed $25,000.
Merrie Spaeth, a Dallas public relations executive, has helped the group present its message. She was involved with a Dallas-based effort in 2000 by an independent group that helped Mr. Bush by running an ad in the GOP primary challenging Republican John McCain's record.
This month, Mr. McCain called on the Bush campaign to condemn the Swift Boat Veterans ad. The Bush campaign declined, saying it has nothing to do with the group.
"The real question is why won't President Bush heed Sen. McCain's call to condemn this ad?" said Mr. Clanton of the Kerry campaign. "With one phone call, George Bush could put an end to this smear of John Kerry's military service.”