WASHINGTON – A controversial advertisement now airing on cable network news channels is making waves in Washington over the ad's blistering attack on President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt.
The ad, produced by the non-profit organization American Family Voices, which has close ties to Clinton administration advisers, compares Bush and Cheney to foxes guarding the hen house and warns that their past business dealings make them unfit to lead the call for corporate responsibility.
"Remember the saying about foxes guarding the hen house? Well, guess what's happening in Washington? President Bush says he's getting tough on corporate fraud, but look at the record. Bush thinks tough talk can hide the record, that's sly, like a fox," the ad said.
The ad discusses Bush's nearly $900,000 sale of Harken Energy stock in 1990, but makes no mention of the fact that an SEC investigation showed no harm, no foul in the sale.
It also mentions Cheney's former firm Halliburton is currently under investigation and that Pitt was once a lawyer for major accounting firms, suggesting that the two were involved in bad business.
The White House called the ad nonsense and said the AFV does a bang-up job of disguising its financiers.
"It's not clear at all who's behind this ad, where the money came from, and we're in an era now [in] which people have expected people who run advertisements to indicate who they are, who the contributors are, and where they come from," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
The American Family Voices group was created with labor union money in 2000 to bash Bush and help then-Vice President Al Gore in the presidential election. It is a non-profit issue advocacy organization that under section 501c(4) of the tax code does not have to say where it gets its cash.
Former Clinton adviser James Carville, now a co-host on CNN, is a close adviser to the left-leaning group and has helped it raise and spend money on various projects.
"I never saw the ad, had nothing to do with it ... I think it's all true, but I was not involved. As for the organization, those people are my friends. I have an ideological compatibility with them," Carville said.
Former Clinton White House spokesman Joe Lockhart's firm, the Glover Park Group, produced the ad for broadcast this week in New York and Washington, D.C. Lockhart's partners include two top operatives from Al Gore's failed 2000 presidential bid.
Not only does the ad skip the part about Bush's clearance but it also fails to mention that the current investigation of Cheney's former firm has so far found nothing. Nor does it mention that some argue that Pitt's time as a lawyer for the accounting industry could make him a more effective regulator since he might know the business inside-out.
Even some very partisan Democrats think the ad is out of line including Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
"I resented gotcha politics during the Clinton administration and I resent gotcha politics with the Bush administration," Schumer said.