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Inside Politics

Kerry files FEC complaint against swift boat group

Accuses 527 of illegally working with Bush campaign

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
John F. Kerry
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth
George W. Bush

(CNN) -- The Kerry presidential campaign filed a complaint Friday with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that ads from an anti-Kerry veterans' group are inaccurate and "illegally coordinated" with Republicans and the Bush-Cheney campaign.

The complaint -- filed against Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- states that "... there is overwhelming evidence that SBVT is coordinating its expenditures on advertising and other activities designed to influence the presidential election with the Bush-Cheney campaign."

A spokesman for the group, composed of Vietnam veterans who served on swift boats, said it had no response to the complaint. Members have previously denied coordinating with the Bush campaign.

A spokesman for the Bush campaign dismissed the complaint as "frivolous and false," but said it welcomed a broader look at the so-called 527 groups, tax-exempt organizations that engage in political activities.

Congress banned the use of unregulated "soft money" by political parties and certain political groups in 2002, but that law did not address activity by 527s, named for a section of the federal tax code.

"The Bush campaign filed FEC complaints [in early May] requesting an investigation of the coordination between the Kerry campaign and the Media Fund and ACT [America Coming Together]," campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin told CNN, naming two left-leaning 527s.

In its complaint, the RNC named the Kerry campaign, 28 groups and at least two large donors. The RNC charged that the groups violated campaign finance reform law by illegally raising what is known as "soft money." The complaint said the 527 groups were coordinating advertising efforts with the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party. (Full story)

The Kerry campaign has denied any collusion with those groups.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Friday that President Bush "has been the recipient of 527 ads which are terrible, and in my view very, very inappropriate." McCain charged that all 527 ads are illegal. Previously he has asked both Kerry and Bush to condemn the critical ads.

Campaign officials with Kerry in Florida said the complaint notes a New York Times report of "a web of connections to the Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures, and President Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove."

The complaint cites "journalistic research discrediting" the group's allegations and states that a member of the group's steering committee "admitted" on television that the group's intent was to defeat Kerry.

Kerry's complaint came as the veterans group released a new ad Friday that takes issue with comments Kerry made after he returned from Vietnam.

The 30-second spot will air as part of an approximately $600,000 ad buy, an official with the group told CNN.

More than $500,000 of that came from Internet donations, and $100,000 came from a major Texas Republican donor, the official said.

"This Republican front group for Bush is out of credibility after being caught in lie after lie day after day," Kerry campaign spokesman David Wade said.

The group has no direct connection to the Bush campaign, and group members said they have acted independently of the president's re-election effort.

Selected comments

The latest ad selects quotes from Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971. In the ad, Kerry says, "They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads," "randomly shot at civilians," and "razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Kahn."

The ad does not include Kerry's preface, in which he said he is reporting what others said at a Vietnam veterans conference. Instead, a swift boat group member refers to the statements as "accusations" Kerry made against Vietnam veterans.

An official transcript shows Kerry was referring to a meeting in Detroit, Michigan, that was part of what was called the Winter Soldier investigation. He told the Senate committee that veterans had testified to war crimes and relived the "absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do."

Kerry has said he regrets some of the comments but stands by his protests.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth recently released another ad accusing Kerry of lying to get his Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, a charge Kerry and some veterans dispute.(Full story)

A new survey of more than 2,200 people suggests the ad about Kerry's service medals reached a wide audience. Of all people polled, 59 percent believed Kerry earned his medals, while 21 percent believed he did not.

Responses fell largely along party lines, with more than 75 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents stating Kerry earned his medals, and 61 percent of Republicans stating he did not.

The University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey was conducted between August 9 and Monday.

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