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Bill Clinton Backs Anti-Bush Groups

Former President Clinton lent his support Tuesday to two interest groups that have sharply criticized President Bush while raising money to help Democrat John Kerry's (search) White House bid.

Clinton, along with AFL-CIO (search) president John Sweeney (search), spoke at an Apollo Theater event held by the MoveOn.org (search) voter fund and Voices for Working Families.

Clinton criticized Bush on his economic policies, particularly his tax cuts, and said the president had reduced after-school programs and the number of police on streets.

"You have to believe that your children and grandchildren will live in an America that will be shaped by whether we ratify the course for wrong, or go back to the one that's worked for eight years."

MoveOn.org is a San Francisco-based advocacy group started in 1998 that claims about 2 million online members. It's been accused by Republicans of violating campaign finance laws while raising unlimited amounts of "soft money" — corporate, union or unlimited donations — to run ads critical of Bush.

Voices for Working Families, a Washington, D.C.-based group, has undertaken a nationwide campaign to increase voter registration in targeted states, especially among minorities and women.

Richardson, who has been mentioned as a possible Kerry running mate, sits on the group's board.

MoveOn officials have said their donations are legal and aren't being used to buy access or influence. Groups like MoveOn, the Media Fund and America Coming Together (search) have raised more than $25 million for advertisements that criticize Bush's policies. Republicans contend the groups are "shadow parties" created by Democratic supporters to raise soft money.

Wes Boyd, a founder of MoveOn.org, said those accusations are unfounded and that what they are doing is legal.

"The Republican National Committee has been trying to intimidate opponents of the Bush agenda," said Boyd who maintains his group is nonpartisan. "Those charges are ridiculous."

Arlene Holt-Baker, president of Voices for Working Families, also balked at the RNC allegations.

"Our work is transparent," she said. "We are not a shadow for any party. We do everything within the law." She said the movement aims to register 800,000 voters by November.

Federal Election Commission (search) lawyers on Tuesday recommended that the agency delay a decision on new donation and spending limits for tax-exempt groups like these.

A spokeswoman for the RNC, Heather Layman, called support for Kerry through such groups "ironic."

"Kerry supported the Campaign Reform Act, but now he's the biggest beneficiary of fund-raising from these groups," she said.