Joe Conason's Journal

The most ridiculous, shameless lie in this campaign season.

By Salon Staff

Published October 24, 2002 4:09PM (EDT)

It's alright, Ma, they're only lyin'
Telling the most shameless lie in this campaign season is no small achievement. Among the leading prevaricators is Norm Coleman, the Republican senatorial candidate in Minnesota, who has tried to double-talk his way out of his endorsement of privatizing Social Security. But Coleman is an amateur compared with Michael Dubke. Who? Dubke is the president of Americans for Job Security, a mysterious group with ties to the Republican congressional leadership and big business that intervenes in political races around the country, always on behalf of conservatives. It first gained notoriety a few years ago when Trent Lott, then the Senate majority leader, shook down a group of Washington lobbyists to donate money to the organization, which was helping a Republican senatorial candidate in Michigan. This year, the same outfit has targeted Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone with radio and TV ads of dubious accuracy. In fact, AJS is spending a million dollars attacking the Democrat during the weeks leading up to Election Day.

But in order to maintain the secrecy of its donors, AJS bills itself for tax and regulatory purposes as a "nonpolitical trade organization." As such, AJS is forbidden from partisan activity on behalf of a candidate; legally, it can only run issue-oriented advertising. But the AJS advertising against Wellstone has gone way over that blurry line. That is why Dubke uttered the consummate lie in an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Asked whether his latest anti-Wellstone commercial is "intended to influence the election," Dubke replied, "Absolutely not." He embroidered his mendacity by adding that the ad "is not an attack on Wellstone's integrity as much as bringing up the issue of the trustworthiness of public officials."

The Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party is suing AJS, which raises the delightful prospect of Dubke giving testimony under oath rather than just misrepresenting himself to newspaper reporters. Of course, the ad itself is a little masterpiece of flimflam. It upbraids Wellstone for taking "over a million dollars in special interest money" from PACs when he supposedly pledged to accept none. Whether Wellstone ever made such a foolish promise is in dispute. What is not in dispute -- but is naturally omitted by Dubke's ad -- are the comparative figures for Wellstone and Coleman available here. Wellstone's total PAC contributions are less than half of Coleman's -- and from corporate PACs, such as his friends in the pharmaceutical industry, Coleman has received more than 10 times as much corporate money as Wellstone. Those same interests have obviously funneled much more (through an underground sewer) to the likes of Dubke.

But don't worry. According to White House political operative Ken Mehlman, there's another way to measure Coleman's "authenticity." Apparently the former Democrat went to the Woodstock musical festival and can quote Bob Dylan. Maybe Coleman can teach Mehlman what the poet wrote about people like them almost 40 years ago: "Money doesn't talk, it swears."
[9:30 a.m. PDT, Oct. 24, 2002]

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