Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Republican supporters step up dirty tricks

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Having helped to destroy John Kerry's 2004 campaign with the infamous Swift Boat smear campaign, some of the Republicans' more zealous supporters have been stepping up the dirty tricks against Barack Obama, as Richard Silverstein reports on Comment is Free.

28 million voters in swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, have received, via inserts in newspapers, DVDs of Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, a scaremongering documentary that suggests Islamists could take over the United States and, funnily enough, that the Republicans are the party best equipped to counter this threat.

Of course, these DVDs haven't been produced by the McCain campaign, but by the Clarion Fund, a non-profit organisation promoting "national security through education". The group's founder, Raphael Shore, has already broken election law by endorsion John McCain on his website – something non-profit organisations are forbidden from doing. The DVDs have also been distributed by the Republican Jewish Coalition, a lobbying group that takes a hardline on terrorism and US support for Israel.

Meanwhile, Jewish voters have been receiving calls "informing" them of Obama's links to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Hamas, and his plans to "call for a summit of Muslim nations and exclude Israel".

As with the smears on Kerry, and the other attacks on Obama we've seen this year, the groups responsible aren't directly linked to the Republican Party, but it doesn't take much scrutiny to see that these organisations might not be entirely renegade. As Silverstein's Guardian piece points out, some of the telemarketing has been done by a company called Research Strategies, whose founder Chris Wilson is "a top Republican consultant and friend of, you guessed it, Karl Rove."

Expect more stories of dirty tricks in the run up to the election. Obama's well prepared for them though – ever since the primaries he's had a website, Fight the Smears, dedicated to doing just that.