Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pennsylvania Republicans Send False Anti-Obama E-mail

By Jim Rutenberg

A new e-mail making the rounds among Jewish voters in Pennsylvania this week falsely alleged that Mr. Obama “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud,’’ and equated a vote for Senator Barack Obama with the “tragic mistake” of their Jewish ancestors, who “ignored the warning signs in the 1930’s and 1940’s.”

At first blush, it was typical of the sorts of e-mails floating around with false, unsubstantiated and incendiary claims this year.

But where most of the attack e-mails against Mr. Obama have been mostly either anonymous or from people outside of mainstream politics, this one had an unusually official provenance: It was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s “Victory 2008” committee.

And it was signed by several prominent McCain supporters in the state: Mitchell L. Morgan, a top fund-raiser; Hon. Sandra Schwartz Newman, a member of Mr. McCain’s national task-force monitoring Election Day voting, and I. Michael Coslov, a steel industry executive.

After several calls for comment about the e-mail, leaders of the state party repudiated it on Friday. They said it had been released without their authorization and that they had fired the strategist who helped draft it, Bryan Rudnick.

“There were some points that were accurate, there were two that we cannot substantiate, however; as a result of them we’ve let him go,” said Michael Barley, the communications director for the Pennsylvania state Republican Party, who said other issues had contributed to Mr. Rudnick’s dismissal. “There are points that could have been made and he touched on some of them, but he definitely went a little bit farther than the facts would support.”

Mr. Barley was referring specifically to the letter’s allegation that Mr. Obama had “taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud.” Mr. Barley said the party had no substantiation for the claim and should not have made it. (Mr. Obama’s campaign and Acorn have reported he did conduct two pro bono training sessions, of one hour each, for officials there more than a decade ago.)

Mr. Barley was also referring to a statement in the letter that Mr. Obama was “associated with a known terrorist, William Ayers, who thought the terrorists didn’t do enough on 9/11.”

Mr. Ayers was quoted in the Sept. 11, 2001 edition of The New York Times, printed before the attacks, saying he believed that his group, The Weather Underground, “didn’t do enough.” The Weather Underground had bombed several government buildings in the 1970’s that resulted in several deaths — including those of three police officers. He was not referring to Al Qaeda or the Sept. 11 attacks.

And, working off of a common refrain of Mr. McCain that Mr. Obama had once described Mr. Ayers as “just a guy in the neighborhood,’’ the letter goes on to ask, “If a known terrorist lived in your neighborhood, would he just be a guy in your neighborhood, or would you be calling the FBI to have him removed?”

While that would seem to imply to uninformed voters that Mr. Ayers was on the lam, Mr. Ayers is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois, and worked with Mr. Obama on two charitable boards with mainstream, civic support in Chicago. Charges against him were dropped in 1974 because of prosecutorial misconduct, including illegal surveillance.

In a brief interview earlier Friday, Judge Newman — a former state supreme court justice now in private practice –- said she had helped write the letter. Then she quickly passed the phone to Mr. Rudnick. He said the e-mail was sent to 75,000 voters in Pennsylvania and asked that other questions be e-mailed to him.

Mr. Rudnick did not respond to that e-mail. But, contacted again on Friday night, Mr. Rudnick disputed the party’s version of events and said he had approval for the letter from officials at several levels.

Mr. Rudnick said he usually works in Florida but was dispatched to Pennsylvania to help with Jewish outreach there.

Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said, “If they really cared about telling the truth they’d send the list an email debunking their own lies.”

Mr. Barley said the party would send a correction to those who received the email. “We apologize and that was definitely not something we authorize,” he said.

He could not be reached late Friday to address Mr. Rudnick’s refutation of the party’s official version of events.

Original here

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