Campaign Notebook

Obama seeks federal probe into ads by pro-Clinton group

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May 1, 2008

Barack Obama's campaign urged federal regulators yesterday to investigate whether a pro-Hillary Clinton advocacy group is breaking campaign finance laws.

The American Leadership Project, one of the growing number of quasi-independent groups involved in the presidential race, was started by Clinton allies, and its major funding comes from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union that has endorsed Clinton.

On Tuesday, it began airing a TV ad in Indiana going after Obama's economic plan and has said it will spend $920,000 on the ads. Obama's campaign says that ad is misleading and lodged a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission, saying the group should have to register as a political committee, disclose contributors, and abide by contribution limits.

"From its inception, ALP has made clear that its objective is to help Hillary Clinton win the Democratic nomination for president," Obama campaign lawyers write in the complaint.

Jason Kinney, ALP chairman and a California Democratic strategist, responded, "We have strictly and carefully adhered to every governing law and regulation, including the content of our communications and our full and timely disclosures."

The ALP is a 527 group, referring to a section of the tax code, that can raise unlimited amounts from donors and can air issue-based ads; however it is not supposed to air ads that expressly advocate for or against a candidate and cannot coordinate with a campaign.

Obama has also been assisted by the loosely-regulated groups, which are expected to spend millions this election.

Obama's campaign lawyer, Robert Bauer, in his complaint and in a teleconference with reporters, likened the group to organizations that had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for ad campaigns in the 2004 presidential election.

Among them was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked Democrat John F. Kerry's service in Vietnam and his subsequent antiwar stance.

"This organization is a Swift Boat wannabe, and it's violating the law in exactly the same way," Bauer said.


The Obamas share, hear stories of struggle in Ind.
Barack Obama took his campaign yesterday to a neighborhood park and a family's kitchen table to reach out to elusive working-class voters in Indiana.

He and his wife, Michelle, sat in an Indianapolis park with playground equipment as a backdrop for television.

Michelle Obama, never one to mince words, said neither the Democratic nor Republican parties have solved economic problems that are getting worse by the day.

It would take someone "decent" like her husband, she said.

In suburban Beech Grove, they had lunch and chatted with Mike and Cheryl Fischer, hearing their stories of struggle.

He's a machinist at a local Amtrak facility where 77 jobs are threatened this summer.

"Michelle and I grew up in a pretty modest situation," said Obama, who said they understand the pressures facing working families.

"We are still so close to the lives most Americans are living," added Michelle Obama.


Maya Angelou adds prose to new Clinton TV ad
Hillary Clinton's campaign apparently believes that poet Maya Angelou can help her make inroads among African-Americans and the liberal intelligentsia - two groups in which rival Barack Obama dominates.

Clinton's camp released an open letter from Angelou last week. Now she's featured in a 60-second TV ad the campaign announced yesterday will air in North Carolina, which votes Tuesday. In the spot, Angelou praises the New York senator almost poetically.

"Hillary Clinton is a prayer of every American who really longs for fair play," says Angelou, a professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., who read a poem at Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993. "She intends to help our country become what it can become. She dares to say human beings are more alike than we are unalike."


Group bashes McCain in 'Mission accomplished' ad
The antiwar group used yesterday's fifth anniversary of President Bush's declaration of "Mission accomplished" in Iraq to bash John McCain with a TV ad arguing that the presumptive Republican nominee would be worse.

As candle after candle, is lit on a red-white-and-blue cake decorated with "Mission Accomplished" in icing, the announcer cites McCain's remark in New Hampshire that US troops could be in Iraq for 100 years.

McCain has explained that he meant a military presence akin to peacekeepers in South Korea, but Democrats have hammered him for supporting an indefinite continuation of the war.


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