Bush consults with McClain on ads by 'shadowy' groups
The debate over ads attacking Kerry's war record continutes to rage.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- President Bush wants to work with Republican Sen. John McCain to pursue court action against political ads by "shadowy" outside groups, the White House said today amid growing pressure on the president to denounce attacks on John Kerry's war record.
"The president said if the court action doesn't work, that he would be willing to pursue legislative action with Sen. McCain on that," Bush spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to New Mexico.
McCain, R-Ariz., has called on Bush to condemn the anti-Kerry ads, even as he is actively supporting Bush's re-election. McCain told The New York Times that he plans to personally "express my displeasure" to the president, the paper reported today.
Bush called McCain from Air Force One and the two had a brief discussion about the matter, McClellan said.
The debate over Democratic nominee John Kerry's service in Vietnam has dominated the presidential race in recent weeks after the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth aired ads questioning Kerry's decorated record.
Bush has criticized the Swift Boat Veterans group's first commercial and all other outside group attack ads -- many of which have targeted his own re-election. But he has not explicitly condemned the Swift Boat veterans' ad.
McClellan said that complaints have been filed with the Federal Election Commission, including one by the Kerry campaign, which allows legal action if the agency doesn't act. The Bush-Cheney campaign would be the entity that would file such a lawsuit, but McClellan did not indicate when that might happen.
"There have been previous complaints filed," McClellan said. "The FEC had an opportunity to act. They did not act so that allows those who filed those complaints to pursue action against the FEC."
The Bush campaign and the GOP have filed complaints accusing the Kerry campaign of illegally coordinating millions of dollars worth of anti-Bush ads with soft-money groups on the Democratic side.
The Kerry campaign filed its own complaint last week with the FEC, alleging that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was illegally coordinating its efforts with the Bush-Cheney campaign.
All sides deny the allegations, and neither campaign has produced proof of coordination on the part of its rival.
McClellan said the goal is "to shut down all of this activity by these shadowy groups."
"We want to pursue court action," he added.
Mike Russell, a spokesman for the Swift Boat group, said today that "we're going to continue doing what we're doing because this group is made up of more than 250 veterans who feel it is their obligation to tell the truth about John Kerry's military service."
"We're obviously going to abide by the spirit and letter of the law but as it sits right now 527s are free to operate and we're going to continue to do so," he said.
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