Price of Power: McCain accepts ex-Swift Boaters' donations

ByABC News
June 30, 2008, 10:36 PM

WASHINGTON -- Republican John McCain, who four years ago condemned independent ads challenging Democrat John Kerry's military record, has accepted nearly $70,000 for his presidential campaign from the top donors of the group behind the attack ads and their relatives, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

That's nearly four times the amount McCain received from those donors in the 14 years before launching his current campaign at the end of 2006, campaign finance records show.

In 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (later called SwiftVets and POWS for Truth) bankrolled ads charging that Kerry had lied about the incidents in Vietnam that led to his military decorations. The group included former members of the Navy who served in the same kind of river patrol boats as Kerry. McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, called the group's advertising "dishonest and dishonorable."

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said in an e-mail that McCain accepted the money because the donors are "interested in supporting (his) agenda of reform, prosperity and peace." He said McCain has been critical of so-called 527 groups named for the tax code section under which they operate and argued that "virtually every attack-style 527 group on the airwaves" is aiding Democrat Barack Obama.

Obama recently cited 527s as a reason he decided to bypass public-financing in the general election.

Outside groups have spent nearly $10 million to aid Obama in this election, according to data compiled by the non-partisan CQMoneyLine, which tracks campaign money. Independent groups have spent less than $50,000 on McCain's behalf.

The USA TODAY analysis examined donations to McCain's campaign by the top 20 contributors to the Swift Boat group. It found that nine Swift Boat donors and their family members have given $69,100 to McCain's White House bid.

Bob Perry, a Texas builder who gave nearly $4.5 million to Swift Boat Vets, and his wife, Doylene, each have given $4,400 to McCain's presidential campaign, some of which went to an account for legal and accounting expenses, records show.