By Tim McGivern
Follow the money. From Jim Lehrer to Rush Limbaugh, media folks were all atwitter last week over a 30-second TV ad financed by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that lambasted John Kerry's military record. This group is just a front for the Bush-Cheney campaign and you've got to be a freaking moron to believe otherwise, I thought. But just to be sure, I went to www.factcheck.org and then googled some of the Swift Boat Vets listed there, for a little confirmation.
It turns out Roy Hoffman, a retired rear admiral, was the central figure in organizing the group shortly after Kerry became a cinch for the Democratic presidential nomination in March. Once he gathered his team of accusers, Hoffman then approached a Houston lawyer and Republican, John O'Neill, for financial backing, according to a New York Times investigation on Aug. 20, "Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti Kerry Ad."
O'Neill—who also commanded a Swift boat and opposed Kerry in a 1971 televised debate over the justification of U.S. military actions in Vietnam—solicited financial support from Bob Perry, a Houston home builder who has donated millions to Texas Republicans including President Bush and Rep. Tom DeLay.
Perry is more than generous to the GOP, giving over $3 million to Republican candidates in 2002 alone. He has been a friend of Bush's political director, Karl Rove, for decades. And according to the Institute on Money in State Politics, Perry gave $100,000 to Swift Boat as part of the $158,000 the group reported raising in a June disclosure statement. (Money raised since June hasn't been filed yet.)
Perry is also one of the largest political donors in New Mexico, a state that sets no limits on individual contributions. He earned that dubious honor simply by giving Republican John Sanchez $238,000 in his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2002.
What's Sanchez up to these days? He is the Southwest regional coordinator for the Bush-Cheney ’04 election team.
Where's the honor? Reports in the New York Times and Washington Post last week pretty much lit the stink bomb these fellas are sitting on. For example, Larry Thurlow, one of the accusers, said Kerry wasn't under fire during the incident that earned him a Bronze Star. Thurlow himself, it turns out, was awarded a Bronze Star for aiding fellow troops "in the face of enemy fire" during the same incident, according to Navy records obtained by the press using Freedom of Information requests. "The actual citation, Thurlow said, was with an ex-wife with whom he no longer has contact, and he declined to authorize the Navy to release a copy," the Times reported on Aug 20.
Even the group's leader, Roy Hoffman, told the Boston Globe in June 2003, that Kerry's Silver Star actions "took guts, and I admire that."
Two other guys in the Swift Boat ad, George Elliot and Adrian Lonsdale, campaigned for Kerry during his senate re-election bid in 1996, speaking approvingly of his service in Vietnam specifically.
And Elliot, as Kerry's commander, called him "not exceeded" in moral courage, judgment and decisiveness in a 1969 official evaluation, according to Navy records obtained by the Times. (Elliot now refuses to comment publicly on the ads, while still appearing in them.)
Then there is Dr. Louis Letson, who appears for several seconds, saying, "I know John Kerry is lying about his first Purple Heart, because I treated him for that injury." However, nowhere on any of Kerry's military medical records does Letson's name appear. When the Times interviewed Letson last week, seeking verification of his claim, Letson said, "I guess you'll have to take my word for it."
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