On Floyd Brown and David Bossie: Deconstructing the Obama Smear Machine

Bill Berkowitz
May 5, 2008

Floyd Brown and David Bossie: Back in the Swift Boat captain's chairs

Two longtime practitioners of negative campaigning are mainstreaming attacks on Clinton and Obama

Floyd Brown and David Bossie have spent a good part of their political careers making life miserable for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Unlike Richard Mellon Scaife, the billionaire financier who was unremitting in his efforts to take the Clintons down during the latter part of the twentieth century and whose newspaper endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton prior to the Pennsylvania primary, neither Brown nor Bossie have had a pro-Hillary conversion.

These days, however, Brown's new organization, The National Campaign Fund -- which launched a new website "ExposeObama.com" -- and Bossie's Citizens United have added Sen. Barack Obama to the mix.

Brown recently told Time magazine that "he had established several other front groups to fund a long-range effort to erode Obama's support, including a second PAC, called The Legacy Committee, a 527 organization called Citizens for a Safe and Prosperous America and a so-called "social welfare" 501(c)4 nonprofit called the Policy Issues Institute."

Bossie told Newsweek that he was "assembling material for TV spots about Obama's ties with [Bill] Ayers, a Chicago professor and unrepentant former member of the Weather Underground, a group that bombed several government buildings to protest the Vietnam War."

Raising Obama's negatives

Best known for his infamous Willie Horton television advertisement that helped put the kybosh on Democratic Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis' presidential aspirations in 1988, Brown's National Campaign Fund has prepared a new TV attack ad called "Victims," which lambastes Obama for being too easy on gang murderers.

"The campaign by Hillary Clinton has not been able to raise Obama's negatives," Brown told Time. "It is absolutely critical that Obama's negatives go up with Republicans." Time reported that copies of the ad were "e-mailed to between 3 and 7 million conservatives this week, with a plea for more funding to further spread the message."

While declining to comment on how much money he was hoping to raise, Brown pointed out that "All of the efforts I have ever done in my life have been significantly funded. This is going to be the most Internet-intensive effort for an ad debut ever."

"The ad draws a parallel between Obama's weakness on gang violence and the war on terror," said Brown. According to the conservative news site, NewsMax.com, the ad "tells of a woman leaving church choir practice who was killed by gang gunfire while shielding her 6-year-old daughter, a 15-year-old boy beaten with bricks after a gang member crashed into his car, and a 14-year-old boy shot five times in the back for refusing to flash a gang hand sign."

"'They all died in 2001. In Chicago," says the voice-over.

"That same year, Barack Obama -- then an Illinois state senator -- voted against expanding the death penalty for gang-related murders, the ad points out," NewsMax reported. The ad ends: "When the time came to get tough, Obama chose to be weak. So the question is: Can a man so weak in the war on gangs be trusted in the war on terror?"

According to Time, "Brown's new ad focuses on a 2001 vote by Obama in the Illinois Senate to oppose a bill that would have expanded the use of the death penalty if the perpetrator of a crime belonged to a gang. The links between Obama's vote on that issue and the deaths of three Chicago resident's are indirect and tenuous, as is the further connection the ad draws between the issue of Obama's position on the death penalty and the issue of international terrorism."

The ExposeObama team consists of Brown, who is also president of Excellentia Inc., which according to his bio, is "a consulting company specializing in non-profit organizational strategy, development and the marketing of ideas"; executive director Bruce E. Hawkins, "a highly skilled political strategist" who has worked for such conservative as Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan and Mike Huckabee; treasurer and general counsel James V. Lacy, the co-founder and managing partner of Wewer & Lacy, LLP and the cofounder in 1978, along with the late anti-tax crusader Howard Jarvis, of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

On another front, a group called Citizens for a Safe and Prosperous America, headed by California State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, teamed with Brown to attack both Obama and Hillary Clinton for wanting to raise taxes on the American people. According to DeVore, both senators "want to raise taxes. Americans should have this information and be aware of the other extremely liberal positions Obama and Clinton hold."

"The ad draws a parallel between Obama and Clinton's records on taxes," said Brown. "The bottom line is that they can't deal with our economic problems by raising taxes. International competition cannot be addressed by raising taxes and raising the costs of business in America."

In the early 1990's Brown penned "Slick Willie: Why America Cannot Trust Bill Clinton," and he took credit for creating a 1-900 line for callers to listen to edited excerpts of telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Arkansas lounge singer Gennifer Flowers who, during Bill Clinton's run for the presidency in 1992, claimed that she had had a twelve-year relationship with him.

Last summer, when it looked as if Hillary Clinton was a sure-fire cinch to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, Brown announced that he was working on a movie that, according to the website of Citizens United, would "expose the truth about her conflicts in the past and her liberal plot for the future."

'Hillary: The Movie'

Now, with Brown having moved on, "Hillary: The Movie" (website) is about to "explode onto the scene!" claims Citizens United's website. Produced by CU Chairman of the Board and President, David Bossie, the author of the recently released book, "Hillary: The Politics of Personal Destruction," the movie contains more than 40 interviews "with experts, opinion makers, and many of the people who personally locked horns with the Clintons."

The film has "a cast to end all casts," and includes Dick Morris, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, Jeff Gerth, Buzz Patterson, Michael Barone, Billy Dale, Cyrus Nowrasteh, Tony Blankley, Dick Armey, Bay Buchanan, Joe Connor, Mark Levin, Frank Gaffney, Peter Paul, Gary Aldrich, Dan Burton, John Mica, Michael Medved, Kathleen Willey, Kate O'Beirne, and Larry Kudlow.

Two Trailers for the film and three clever -- one 30 second and two 10 second -- advertisements for the film are featured at CU's website. The ads have been the cause of legal action: In late March, CNN reported that the Supreme Court had rejected CU's fight "to air commercials promoting" the movie without having to "indicate by name its sponsorship and disclose its political donors."

According to CNN, The case, rejected on jurisdictional grounds by the Supreme Court, had been appealed after a federal District Court refused to issue a preliminary injunction clearing the way for the promotions to run.
"At issue," CNN reported, "was whether broadcast ads promoting the 90-minute documentary ... are subject to strict campaign finance laws on political advocacy, or would be considered a constitutionally protected form of commercial speech." The three-judge District Court panel "rejected the group's arguments that the documentary is more akin to news or information programs like PBS' 'Nova' or CBS' '60 Minutes.'"

"'The Movie' is susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary world, and that viewers should vote against her," wrote the judges in their ruling.

Both trailers are fast paced goulashes of Hillary sound-bites, flashing headlines and talking heads. The first one begins with a campaigning former North Carolina Senator John Edwards cautioning against "nostalgia," and climaxes with a long quote from former Clinton aide and Fox News Channel commentator Dick Morris: "We must never underestimate this woman. We must never underestimate her chances of winning. And we must never forget the fundamental danger that this woman poses to every value that we hold dear. You see," says Morris," I know her."

Although in reality, the film is "explod[ing] onto the scene" in only a handful of selected venues, the American Spectator's Quin Hillyer called it (and the companion book), "The best compendium of Hillary mendacity (and at-least-near-criminality) available right now." Hillyer acknowledges that he "did a final copy-edit for -- but did not write -- the book." Hillyer assures readers that the film does not merely re-hash Hillary's greatest hits, but includes "an examination of more recent scandals that never received the attention they deserved."

David Bossie is also the president and manager of an entity called The Presidential Coalition LLC, described by SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy as "a Republican front group that registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a Section 527 political action committee on June 30, 2005 ... [and] is affiliated with Citizens United. The group's IRS filing stated that the PAC was "Organized to directly or indirectly accept contributions and/or make expenditures to influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment of individuals to federal, state or local public office, or office in a political organization."

Bossie "was fired in 1998 from his job as chief investigator for the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight -- which was investigating alleged Clinton White House campaign finance abuses -- for his role in releasing selectively edited transcripts of former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell's prison conversations," Media Matters for America has reported. "(Hubbell went to prison for defrauding his Little Rock, AR, law firm.)"

He is also the author of a spate of books attacking Democrats including "Prince Albert: The Life and Lies of Al Gore (2000), "Intelligence Failure: How Clinton's National Security Policy Set the Stage for 9/11" (2004), and "The Many Faces of John Kerry: Why This Massachusetts Liberal Is Wrong For America" (2004).

Ramping up the rage and ranting up the rhetoric about Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers

According to Newsweek, David Bossie has placed Obama in his sights. The magazine reported that Bossie maintained that he was "assembling material for TV spots about Obama's ties with [Bill] Ayers, a Chicago professor and unrepentant former member of the Weather Underground, a group that bombed several government buildings to protest the Vietnam War."

Shortly after Obama's victory in the Wisconsin primary, longtime conservative columnist Cliff Kincaid, accused the Illinois Senator of having "controversial socialist connections." Kincaid, the editor of Accuracy in Media, a right wing media watchdog group, and a contributing editor to FamilySecurityMatters.org, charged Obama with being "an associate of a Chicago-based Marxist group with access to millions of labor union dollars and connections to expert political consultants, including a convicted swindler."

Questions about Obama's relationship with Ayers were subsequently raised by conservative radio and Fox News Channel talk show host Sean Hannity. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos asked Obama about Ayers during the Obama-Clinton debate prior to the Pennsylvania primary.

Recent columns by Charles Krauthammer and Ann Coulter also raised the specter of Ayers.

According to Krauthammer, Ayers, along with Tony Rezko, "the indicted fixer," and Jeremiah Wright, "the racist reverend," make up Obama's "Three Amigos":

Obama makes it sound as if the relationship consists of having run into each other at the DMV. In fact, Obama's political career was launched in a 1995 meeting at Ayers' home. Obama's own campaign says that they maintain 'friendly' relations.

Obama's defense is that he was 8 when Ayers and his Weather Underground comrades were planting bombs at the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol and other buildings. True. But Obama was 40 when Ayers said publicly that he doesn't regret setting bombs. Indeed, he said, 'I feel we didn't do enough.'

Would you maintain friendly relations with an unrepentant terrorist? Would you even shake his hand? To ask why Obama does is perfectly legitimate and perfectly relevant to understanding what manner of man he is.

Newsweek reported that "Obama, who lives near Ayers in Chicago's Hyde Park, attended an event at Ayers's house when Obama ran for the state Senate in 1995 -- and served on the board of a nonprofit with him for several years. Obama is aware of the acts Ayers committed when he was 8 years old and has called them 'detestable,'" says spokesman Ben LaBolt, adding that Obama occasionally bumps into Ayers in his neighborhood 'but has not seen him for months.' At a recent dinner party, according to one guest who asked not to be identified discussing a private gathering, Ayers 'ridiculed' the notion that Obama shared his left-wing views: 'He thought the idea that there was a political connection between them was absurd.'"

In early March, John Ponder of the Pensito Review wrote that Obama biographer, John K. Wilson, author of "Barack Obama: This Improbable Quest," who said that Ayers was "not affiliated with the Obama campaign," described the Ayers relationship: "In 1995, State Sen. Alice Palmer held an event for supporters at the home of Ayers, where she announced her plans to run for Congress and introduced Obama as her chosen successor. Obama also served on the board of directors for a progressive foundation, the Woods Fund, from 1999-2001, when Ayers was also on the board. In 2001, Ayers gave $200 to Obama's state senate campaign fund. And Obama and Ayers appeared together on a 1997 panel at the University of Chicago dealing with juvenile justice (Obama also praised Ayers' approach on the subject in an op-ed he wrote that year), and on a 2002 panel on public intellectuals at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Just as Obama's explanations about his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- and Wright's increased public presence -- has not put that saga to rest, there is no doubt that right wing columnists, talk show hosts, partisan advertising and public relations specialists, pundits and two longtime practitioners of negative campaigning, Floyd Brown and David Bossie, will squeeze every last drop out of the Ayers controversy.

David Bossie

The 29-year-old currently works for Senator Lauch Faircloth. Previously, he served as the national youth director in Senator Robert Dole's 1988 presidential campaign. In 1992, he became the executive director of Floyd Brown's Presidential Victory Committee which produced an ad and a 1-800 number with recordings of Gennifer Flowers' alleged conversations with Bill Clinton. Floyd Brown also worked on Dole's 1988 campaign as the Midwest political director but is most famous for creating the Willie Horton commercial that helped sink the Dukakis campaign. In May 1994, Bossie claimed to be working sixteen hours a day on Whitewater.
Additional Information on David Bossie

Bossie held August 1994 impeachment press conference with Howard Phillips. On August 10, 1994 David Bossie -- who was identified as "Director of Government Relations and Communications for Citizens United" along with Howard Phillips chairman of the Conservative Caucus held a press conference addressing the "Latest Whitewater Developments, Impeachment Possibility."
Citizens United press release, 8/10/94

At the press conference, Bossie said he would present Jack Brooks, the House Judiciary Committee chairman with petitions with 10,000 signatures calling for impeachment hearings. Phillips said he would present Brooks with 26,000 petitions calling for Clinton's impeachment. Bossie was also highly critical of Robert Fiske at this press conference.
Gannett News, 8/10/94

Columbia Journalism Review described Bossie in May 1994. In May 1994, Trudy Lieberman, a senior editor at Consumer Reports wrote: "Bossie, the twenty-eight-year-old political director for Citizens United, a conservative Republican operation, runs an information factory whose Whitewater production lines turn out a steady stream of tips, tidbits, documents, factoids, suspicions, and story ideas for the nation's press and for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Journalists and Hill Republicans have recycled much of the information provided by Citizens United into stories that have cast a shadow on the Clinton presidency."
Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 1994

The article also described him as a "source par excellence to journalists dredging the Whitewater swamp" who claims to get eighteen calls an hour.
Columbia Journalism Review, May/June1994

In 1992 Brown & Bossie harassed the family of a suicide victim. In April, 1992, 30 news organizations received "an anonymous and untraceable letter" by fax "claiming Clinton had had an affair with a former law student who committed suicide 15 years ago." Floyd Brown attempted to link Clinton to the 1977 suicide of this, "emotionally distraught young woman, seven-months pregnant," Susan Coleman.
CBS Evening News, 7/13/92

Brown's associates "repeatedly contacted the woman's family in an unsuccessful attempt to confirm the charges."
San Francisco Chronicle, 7/28/92; "CBS Evening News," 7/13/92

Bossie and ex-DC police officer Jim Murphy questioned Susan Coleman's mother and her husband as well as her friends. They even tried to find out what was in Susan's suicide note.
"CBS Evening News," 7/13/92

Bossie and Murphy followed Susan's mother to an Army hospital in Augusta, GA where her husband was being treated for a stroke. They "burst into the sick man's room and began questioning the shaken mother about her daughter's suicide."
CBS Evening News, 7/13/92

Bossie & NBC executive producer chased Schaffer around Fayetteville. In January 1994, Brown's associate, David Bossie was seen with NBC network producer Ira Silverman attempting to interview former Arkansas state Banking Commissioner Beverly Bassett Schaffer. Silverman admitted using Bossie for background information, but denied working together on the interview. Schaffer's husband said the two "jumped out from behind [a] car... [and] chased her through the streets."
Chicago Tribune, 3/27/94; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/20/94

Beverly Bassett Schaffer said she was "ambushed" and then "stalked" around Fayetteville by Bossie and Silverman. Schaffer said that her car was rushed twice by Silverman, an NBC camera crew, and Bossie.
The Fayetteville Morning News, 1/15/92

Silverman said, "I talk to them [Brown and Bossie] along with everyone else. Back in October and November it was difficult to develop sources."
Columbia Journalism Review, 5-6/94

Bossie claimed to be fueling Whitewater. In May 1994, Bossie said that "Citizens United" had provided Whitewater information to "the top fifty major publications, networks, and editorial boards... We've provided the same material on the Hill both on the House and Senate side." Bossie also claimed that he would have gladly provided documents to Democrats, but they haven't asked.
Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 1994

Bossie praised Brown... called politics a "full contact sport." In 1994, Brown claimed that he was harsher and meaner than most in politics and Bossie said, "That's right, Stick and jab. Stick and jab and keep on moving. Politics. It's definitely a full-contact sport."
New York Times, 4/24/94

Chicago Tribune described Bossie in March 1994. In March 1994, Carol Jouzaitis of the Chicago Tribune wrote of Bossie, "The researcher, David Bossie, harvests tales of alleged wrongdoings from a network of Clinton enemies, then peddles them to Capitol Hill and media contacts in hopes of prompting scandalous stories."
Chicago Tribune, 3/27/94

Time described Bossie's dirt-digging in January 1994. In January 1994, Time magazine wrote, "Brown's associate, David Bossie has been to Little Rock several times digging for dirt. Evidently some Whitewater tale tellers prefer to deal with Brown & Co., figuring Brown can be trusted to protect their sources.
Time, 1/24/94

In mid-January Time reported that Floyd Brown was covertly feeding information and "hard-to-find" documents to reporters and Hill Republicans looking into Whitewater. Time said that David Bossie had been to Little Rock several times "digging for dirt." Evidently, some Whitewater "tale tellers" prefer to deal with Brown and Bossie "figuring Brown can be trusted to protect their sources."
Time, 1/24/94


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