WASHINGTON – A group that ran an ad using a picture of Usama bin Laden to portray Howard Dean as unqualified to fight terror was financed by donors who included labor unions, former Democratic Sen. Bob Torricelli (search) and at least two of Dean's own donors.
Americans for Jobs, Healthcare and Progressive Values (search) ran at least three ads in December against then-Democratic presidential front-runner Dean in early-voting states, a finance report the group provided Tuesday to The Associated Press showed.
The group spent $15,000 on an ad aired in South Carolina and New Hampshire that showed a picture of bin Laden and said Dean lacked the experience needed to take on terrorists.
The group aired two anti-Dean ads in Iowa, the first state to hold a delegate contest. One criticized Dean's history of endorsements by the National Rifle Association (search); the other blasted his support for the North American Free Trade Agreement and said he supported cuts to Medicare.
In all, the group raised $663,000 last year and spent $626,840 of it, the finance report showed. It spent $500,000 on ads.
"We did more with $600,000 than Howard Dean did with $41 million," said David Jones, the group's treasurer and a Democratic fund-raising consultant, referring to the Democratic record campaign fund Dean raised and largely spent last year.
Jones' effort drew some big donors, including two who gave $100,000 each.
They are Slim-Fast Foods tycoon S. Daniel Abraham of Florida, who also contributed $2,000 to Dean and several other Democratic hopefuls; and Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network LLC, a New York-based sports cable channel that televises Yankee games. The YES Network's chief executive, Leo Hindery, contributed $2,000 to then-Dean rival Rep. Dick Gephardt, who dropped out of the race after finishing fourth in Iowa.
Abraham wasn't the only Dean donor who gave to the group. California attorney Ken Ziffren gave $5,000 to the Jones group and $2,000 each to the campaigns of Dean, Gephardt and John Kerry. Abraham and Ziffren did not immediately respond to messages left at their offices seeking comment.
Dean spokesman Jay Carson called the group's anti-Dean commercials "some of the nastiest smear ads" in the Democratic race.
"The Washington establishment put this group together just to try to stop Gov. Dean," Carson said.
Former New Jersey Sen. Torricelli, currently raising money for front-runner Kerry, donated $50,000 from his Senate campaign fund to Jones' group.
Federal Election Commission spokesman Bob Biersack said it was "fuzzy" whether Torricelli's contribution was permissible under FEC rules. Donations to such groups are not included on an FEC list of permitted uses for campaign funds.
Torricelli and his campaign treasurer, attorney Michael Perrucci, did not immediately respond to messages left at their offices Tuesday evening seeking comment.
Nearly all the group's donors were backers of Gephardt, who staked his candidacy on Iowa and was in a head-to-head battle with Dean there in December when the backers gave to the group.
They include several labor unions: The International Longshoremen's Association, Laborers International Union and International Association of Machinists, which gave $50,000 each; the International Association of Ironworkers, $25,000; and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, $5,000.
Jones would not to comment on the large number of Gephardt donors to his group, saying only that the group had not bought a donor list from the Gephardt campaign.