WASHINGTON – The Romney campaign is incensed over what they are calling a "dirty trick" involving an e-mail attributed to one of its operatives that questions Rudy Giuliani's friendship with a Catholic priest accused of pedophilia.
The e-mail supposedly was sent out by David Overholtzer, co-chair of the Pottawattamie County GOP in South Carolina and a paid Romney backer. The e-mail asks the question: "If Rudy becomes president, is he planning on putting people like Catholic priest Msgr. Alan Placa in his Cabinet? I hope not! Remember Fr. Placa when you go to the caucuses, and make sure your friends know, too!"
Placa, who was suspended after a New York grand jury investigation of priests suspected of molesting young boys referred to him as one of the perpetrators, is a childhood friend of Giuliani and had been working for the former New York City mayor's consulting firm for the last five years. Giuliani has steadfastly stood by his friend.
The latest confusion may be part of a long-running effort by various presidential campaigns that accuse each other of using e-mail to slime their candidates without leaving fingerprints. The use of e-mail is an update of the age old dirty tricks employed in American politics since the 19th century.
Overholtzer and the Romney campaign have emphatically denied that the e-mail was sent out by Overholtzer and have suggested that a rival did it to make the Romney campaign out to be engaging in a smear campaign against Giuliani. Overholtzer insists that he does not even have a gmail account, from which the e-mail was sent.
Romney supporters smell a rat and point to another e-mail that went out through a gmail address in October, supposedly from "Team Romney," touting the former Massachusetts governor's support for the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans and declaring that Romney "support[s] fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans." The e-mail was apparently a fake, and was not exactly the message Romney wanted to get across to socially conservative Iowans, who play a huge role in the upcoming nominating contest.