Sailing buddies

A flotilla of new reports shows that the Swift Boat Veterans group is helmed by longtime cronies of the Bush family.

Topics:

Revelations during the past week about the forces behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the allegedly independent outfit sponsoring unfounded attacks on John Kerry’s military record, strongly suggest that the group is guided by Republicans at the commanding heights of the conservative movement.

Those partisan operatives and lawyers, in turn, have longstanding connections with the Bush family, although the White House and the president continue to insist they bear no responsibility for the assault on the Democratic nominee’s Vietnam service.

Previous investigative reports in Salon have established that major Texas Republican donors Bob Perry Jr. and Harlan Crow provided nearly all of the initial financing for the Swift Boat group — and that professional public relations and research experts affiliated with the GOP were instrumental in launching the group. This week, media reports focused on the president’s chief outside campaign counsel, Benjamin Ginsburg, who has given legal advice to the Swift Boat group. That sudden exposure prompted Ginsburg’s resignation from the Bush-Cheney campaign.

The network of Republican operatives involved in the Kerry-bashing campaign can be traced still further to a pair of the most influential national conservative organizations, Empower America and Citizens for a Sound Economy, which officially merged last July under the banner of a new entity called FreedomWorks.

That merger brought together such right-wing luminaries as former House Republican leader Dick Armey of Texas, former Bush White House counsel C. Boyden Gray (who also served on the Bush-Cheney transition team in 2000), former Republican vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp and author and foundation official William J. Bennett. Empower America and Citizens for a Sound Economy boast a combined “volunteer army” of more than 600,000 activists across the country, with many organized into state chapters. Their new combined Web site features an endorsement from George W. Bush: “Folks, you’ve got to get to know this organization. … They have been doing a great job all over the country educating people.”



While Empower America, Citizens for a Sound Economy and their successor FreedomWorks describe themselves in high-minded prose as nonpartisan crusaders for liberty and American values, their aims are almost always ideological and often highly partisan.

This year, in a transparent effort to assist the Bush-Cheney campaign, Citizens for a Sound Economy and its state chapters have mobilized their members to help place Ralph Nader on the ballot in several battleground states. In 2000, ironically enough, the Nader-founded Government Accountability Project denounced CSE as a “rent-a-mouthpiece” and “mercenary” for corporate special interests.

And now, it seems clear that a FreedomWorks employee is directly employed in another direct thrust at Kerry through the Swift Boat veterans.

The Times provided the first clue to the FreedomWorks connection by tracing the post office box registered to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to Susan Arceneaux, a Fairfax, Va., resident named as the contact person for the mail drop. As the Times noted, Arceneaux is a veteran conservative activist who has worked for various Republican campaigns and organizations over the years. She is listed as the treasurer of the Majority Leader’s Fund, a Republican political action committee founded by Armey.

Both Arceneaux and a spokesman for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth declined to explain to the Times who had introduced her to them.

The Armey PAC’s most generous donors include Bob J. Perry, contributor of $200,000 to the Swift Boat Vets group, and Sam and Charles Wyly, the Texas business executives who secretly financed attack ads against John McCain during the 2000 primaries.

While Armey’s Fund has been less active in 2004 than during previous election cycles, the former majority leader and his conservative colleagues are pursuing their political agenda under the new rubric of FreedomWorks. Like many other think tanks and activist groups, FreedomWorks also maintains a political action committee. The PAC’s first quarterly report last April was signed by its treasurer, Susan Arceneaux — not long before she showed up to work for the Swift Boat Vets group.

Perhaps the surfacing of so many major contributors and operatives from the Bush/Texas Republican machine and the Washington conservative network in the “Swift Boat” controversy is all innocent coincidence. Yet by this stage, the myriad coincidences and connections heavily outweigh the strained credibility of White House denials.

Just for history’s sake, consider yet another coincidental connection between the FreedomWorks nexus and the Swift Boat group.

Back in 1996, an attorney named Harold “Tex” Lezar was appointed chairman of Empower America after running unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor of Texas on the same ticket with George W. Bush, who won the governor’s race. When Lezar died last January, the mourners included his wife, Dallas public relations executive Merrie Spaeth, and his law partner, John E. O’Neill. By April, Spaeth and O’Neill were meeting to plan the launch of O’Neill’s new political venture — the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

The vast right-wing conspiracy truly is a small world after all.

Joe Conason is the editor in chief of NationalMemo.com. To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 7
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    AP/Jae C. Hong

    Your summer in extreme weather

    California drought

    Since May, California has faced a historic drought, resulting in the loss of 63 trillion gallons of water. 95.4 percent of the state is now experiencing "severe" drought conditions, which is only a marginal improvement from 97.5 percent last week.

    A recent study published in the journal Science found that the Earth has actually risen about 0.16 inches in the past 18 months because of the extreme loss of groundwater. The drought is particularly devastating for California's enormous agriculture industry and will cost the state $2.2 billion this year, cutting over 17,000 jobs in the process.

       

    Meteorologists blame the drought on a large zone (almost 4 miles high and 2,000 miles long) of high pressure in the atmosphere off the West Coast which blocks Pacific winter storms from reaching land. High pressure zones come and go, but this one has been stationary since December 2012.

    Darin Epperly

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Great Plains tornadoes

    From June 16-18 this year, the Midwest was slammed by a series of four tornadoes, all ranking as category EF4--meaning the winds reached up to 200 miles per hour. An unlucky town called Pilger in Nebraska was hit especially hard, suffering through twin tornadoes, an extreme event that may only occur every few decades. The two that swept through the town killed two people, injured 16 and demolished as many as 50 homes.   

    "It was terribly wide," local resident Marianne Pesotta said to CNN affiliate KETV-TV. "I drove east [to escape]. I could see how bad it was. I had to get out of there."   

    But atmospheric scientist Jeff Weber cautions against connecting these events with climate change. "This is not a climate signal," he said in an interview with NBC News. "This is a meteorological signal."

    AP/Detroit News, David Coates

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Michigan flooding

    On Aug. 11, Detroit's wettest day in 89 years -- with rainfall at 4.57 inches -- resulted in the flooding of at least five major freeways, leading to three deaths, more than 1,000 cars being abandoned on the road and thousands of ruined basements. Gov. Rick Snyder declared it a disaster. It took officials two full days to clear the roads. Weeks later, FEMA is finally set to begin assessing damage.   

    Heavy rainfall events are becoming more and more common, and some scientists have attributed the trend to climate change, since the atmosphere can hold more moisture at higher temperatures. Mashable's Andrew Freedman wrote on the increasing incidence of this type of weather: "This means that storms, from localized thunderstorms to massive hurricanes, have more energy to work with, and are able to wring out greater amounts of rain or snow in heavy bursts. In general, more precipitation is now coming in shorter, heavier bursts compared to a few decades ago, and this is putting strain on urban infrastructure such as sewer systems that are unable to handle such sudden influxes of water."

    AP/The Fresno Bee, Eric Paul Zamora

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Yosemite wildfires

    An extreme wildfire burning near Yosemite National Park forced authorities to evacuate 13,000 nearby residents, while the Madera County sheriff declared a local emergency. The summer has been marked by several wildfires due to California's extreme drought, which causes vegetation to become perfect kindling.   

    Surprisingly, however, firefighters have done an admirable job containing the blazes. According to the L.A. Times, firefighters with the state's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection have fought over 4,000 fires so far in 2014 -- an increase of over 500 fires from the same time in 2013.

    Reuters/Eugene Tanner

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Hawaii hurricanes

    Hurricane Iselle was set to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii in 22 years. It was downgraded to a tropical storm and didn't end up being nearly as disastrous as it could have been, but it still managed to essentially shut down the entire state for a day, as businesses and residents hunkered down in preparation, with many boarding up their windows to guard against strong gusts. The storm resulted in downed trees, 21,000 people out of power and a number of damaged homes.

    Debbie Arita, a local from the Big Island described her experience: "We could hear the wind howling through the doors. The light poles in the parking lot were bobbing up and down with all the wind and rain."

    Reuters/NASA

    Your summer in extreme weather

    Florida red tide

    A major red tide bloom can reach more than 100 miles along the coast and around 30 miles offshore. Although you can't really see it in the above photo, the effects are devastating for wildlife. This summer, Florida was hit by an enormous, lingering red tide, also known as a harmful algae bloom (HAB), which occurs when algae grow out of control. HABs are toxic to fish, crabs, octopuses and other sea creatures, and this one resulted in the death of thousands of fish. When the HAB gets close enough to shore, it can also have an effect on air quality, making it harder for people to breathe.   

    The HAB is currently closest to land near Pinellas County in the Gulf of Mexico, where it is 5-10 miles offshore.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>