ABC News political director Mark Halperin falsely suggested that while progressive 527 organizations with ties to the Democratic Party attacked President Bush during the 2004 election, there were no comparable groups on the right. But one of the most prominent 527 groups in the 2004 election cycle was the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a group with ties to both the GOP and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign whose attacks on Democratic candidate John Kerry -- which included numerous false and discredited allegations -- received broad coverage in the media.
On the October 23 edition of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show, ABC News political director Mark Halperin falsely suggested that while progressive 527 organizations with ties to the Democratic Party and the Kerry campaign attacked President Bush during the 2004 election, there were no comparable groups on the right. Halperin used this suggestion to claim that the "old media" are liberal because they "celebrated" such groups during the 2004 election, and he added that had similar conservative or Republican groups existed, "the country would have shut down" and the media would have deemed them "completely unacceptable." In fact, one of the most prominent 527 groups in the 2004 election cycle was the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a group with ties to both the GOP and the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign that attacked Democratic candidate John Kerry's war record. The group received intense media coverage and was cited as key to President Bush's re-election by numerous media conservatives. Further, four of the 10 largest 527 groups in terms of money raised in the 2004 election cycle advocated conservative or Republican causes, and one of those, the Republican Governors Association, has raised the most money in the 2006 election cycle.
Discussing "the liberal media" during the show, host Hannity asked Halperin: "So the liberal media does exist? The old media is liberal?" Halperin said that he and co-author John F. Harris "say it in the book [The Way To Win: Taking the White House in 2008 (Random House, October 2006)], and we give examples." As one of his "ironclad" examples, Halperin claimed that during the 2004 election cycle, the "old media" "celebrated" liberal 527 groups such as America Coming Together, which Halperin described as "this group of liberal donors, millionaires and billionaires, run by a guy who'd been John Kerry's campaign manager, with members of the Democratic National Committee, with people from NARAL [Pro-Choice America] and Emily's List." According to Halperin, "if there had been a group like that of Republicans and conservatives from the NRA [National Rifle Association] or NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] and George Bush's former campaign manager, the country would have shut down. The old media would have said this is completely unacceptable."
According to the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), during the 2004 election cycle, the four conservative 527 organizations in the top 10 were the following:Progress for America Voter Fund (fourth largest amount of money raised), Republican Governors Association (fifth), Swift Boat Veterans For Truth (eighth), and the College Republican National Committee (10th). Further, according to CPI's data , the Republican Governors Association has raised more money than any other 527 organization for the current election cycle, more than double the amount raised by America Coming Together.
In The Way to Win, however, Halperin did in fact note that the Swift Boat Veterans "had ties to both President Bush and Karl Rove, though no evidence of a coordinated effort." Halperin neglected to mention the Swift Boat Veterans' ties to Bush during his appearance on The Sean Hannity Show. Moreover, a lack of evidence did not prevent him from suggesting on Hannity's show that there had been "a coordinated effort" between Democrats and the 527 groups that advocated their causes. As Media Matters for America has noted, The New York Times documented the connections between the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign and the Swift Boat Veterans, such as Benjamin Ginsberg, Bush-Cheney's chief outside legal counsel, who resigned his campaign post after it was revealed that he was offering legal advice to the Swift Boat Veterans. The Swift Boat Veterans were also linked to the DCI Group, a political consulting firm with connections to Bush and his 2000 presidential campaign.
In his book, Halperin addressed the Progress for America Voter Fund only in passing, despite the fact that Ginsberg also gave legal advice to Progress for America, which also had connections to the DCI Group, as The New York Times demonstrated. The Way to Win did not address the Republican Governors Association.
From the October 23 edition of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
HANNITY: So the liberal media does exist? The old media is liberal?
HALPERIN: We say it in the book, and we give examples. One of the examples we give that we just consider to be ironclad is you remember in 2004, you have this America Coming Together, this group of liberal donors, millionaires and billionaires, run by a guy who'd been John Kerry's campaign manager, with members of the Democratic National Committee, with people from NARAL and Emily's List, and they spent millions of dollars on ads attacking George Bush. If there had been a group like that of Republicans and conservatives from the NRA or NFIB and George Bush's former campaign manager, the country would have shut down. The old media would have said this is completely unacceptable. And yet the Kerry group was -- the Democratic group was celebrated. Now, people say to me, "Well, you work at ABC News -- why didn't you do anything about that?" I did. ABC covered that story fairly. I'm proud of where I work, where we understand that we've got to not be liberal, we've got to not be perceived as liberal. But the overall old liberal media covered that story in such an unfair way, and I think anybody who denies that just isn't paying attention.