September 08 2008
A group running TV adverts linking Barack Obama to embattled former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has had Jerome Corsi - author of a controversial book attacking Obama - on its payroll for the past year.
The political action committee Freedom's Defense Fund (FDF) is spending $25,000 this week to air a TV commercial in Michigan that blasts Obama for praising Kilpatrick, who resigned and headed to prison on Thursday following months of ethical scandal.
"Do you know who Barack Obama's friends are?" the FDF advert asks after listing Kilpatrick's offences and playing footage of Obama calling him a "great mayor".
FDF has allied itself with Corsi since last year, paying him $17,500, according to federal election records. Corsi is known for co-writing a book in 2004 that savaged the war record of John Kerry, then the Democratic presidential nominee, and penning a similar attack this year called The Obama Nation.
FDF executive director Todd Zirkle said the group paid Corsi for writing direct-mail fundraising appeals on its behalf. FDF also gives copies of The Obama Nation to contributors who donate $44 or more.
A litany of Corsi's anti-Obama claims have been debunked since his book was published last month, from smaller assertions about Obama's memoir to more explosive charges about the authenticity of the candidate's birth certificate.
Obama offered the public praise for Kilpatrick featured in FDF's ad in May 2007, three months before the Detroit mayor's ethics troubles began to emerge in earnest. By September 2007, a jury had found that Kilpatrick improperly sacked two policemen who discovered that he was conducting an extramarital affair with his chief of staff.
John McCain told Michigan TV station WXYZ yesterday that he has no knowledge of the ad linking Kilpatrick to Obama, but said he would criticise future character-based attacks on his Democratic rival "if it's called for". McCain has remained largely silent on the Corsi book.
FDF is closely tied to direct-mail fundraising firm BMW Direct, which uses the same operating office in downtown Washington. Zirkle said BMW is a contractor for FDF, though the Boston Globe reported in June that BMW established FDF "to fund conservative campaigns and causes".
Corsi, who also writes for the conservative website WorldNetDaily, reported earlier this year that BMW Direct had turned down an offer to conduct direct-mail fundraising for the McCain campaign.
As conservative groups gear up for the final two months of the campaign season, TV spots such as FDF's may be judged more on the buzz they create than on their price tag, according to political media expert Evan Tracey.
"Twenty-five thousand dollars in one cable system in a county is not enough for voters to see it, process it, absorb it," Tracey said.
"But if the ad gets written about, blogged about, amplified in the media - then people decide to get their chequebooks out and give the group money so they can run the ad where people will actually see it." Indeed, Zirkle said FDF plans to run future TV spots in battleground counties spotlighting Obama's relationship with former pastor reverend Jeremiah Wright, onetime anti-war activist Bill Ayers, and Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga.
"If the general public understands his background includes not more or less some of these people," Zirkle said, but "everybody he's associated with who's been of this ilk - well, not everybody, but a lot of his associates in college and afterwards are of questionable character."