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Inside Politics

Kerry hires online chief from MoveOn

Bush camp cries foul

From John Mercurio
CNN Political Unit

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- John Kerry has hired an Internet-savvy Democrat to run his presidential campaign's online communications, a move that raises new questions about the link between his campaign and the independent groups that run TV ads on his behalf.

Zach Exley, the director of special projects for the MoveOn PAC, is going to the Kerry campaign to become its director of online communications and organization.

Exley also worked during the Democratic presidential primary for Howard Dean, helping Dean set up his web-based organization.

Since Kerry became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in early March, the MoveOn PAC has spent more than $2.5 million on TV ads that attack President Bush.

But under the new campaign-finance law, those efforts cannot be coordinated with the Kerry campaign.

A MoveOn statement said Exley and the staff of all MoveOn entities have agreed that they will not be in contact through the election period to avoid the appearance of coordination, "even though federal election rules permit some forms of communication."

MoveOn has spent roughly $17 million on ads since it started running its "misleader" campaign against Bush last year.

Republicans said Exley's move reinforces their accusations that Kerry and his Democratic allies are circumventing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law they fought so hard to enact. (GOP challenges anti-Bush ads)

"It's another example of the coordination between and the Kerry campaign that is illegal under campaign finance law," a Bush campaign official said.

"The Media Fund and MoveOn are functioning as Kerry's slush fund, a shadow Democratic Party that's illegally using soft dollars."

MoveOn became the subject of controversy early this year when it posted two ads on its Web site that compared Bush to Adolf Hitler. The ads were submitted to the group as part of a contest to produce anti-Bush commercials, and Republican Chairman Ed Gillespie said Exley dismissed Republican complaints about them with a barnyard expletive.

"In addition to the obvious questions his hiring raises about further illegal coordination between the Kerry campaign and, you have to wonder what hiring someone who considers Hitler comparisons to be legitimate political discourse says about the Kerry campaign," Gillespie said in a statement issued Wednesday.

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