On the June 22 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Amy Robach equated Vote Hope, a newly launched 527 organization formed to promote the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), with the 527 group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now known as Swift Vets and POWs for Truth), which produced ads smearing and misrepresenting the Vietnam military record of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in the six months leading up to the 2004 presidential election. In introducing a discussion on the Vote Hope group with NBC News political director Chuck Todd, Robach said: "Three years after the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth slammed John Kerry in the harshest attack ads of the 2004 presidential race, the first similar group of this campaign ads have been formed." However, Vote Hope has not released any television advertisements at this time, and as Todd noted, there is no evidence that the organization will produce "similar" attack ads.
According to its website, Vote Hope's goal is to "get 500,000 early votes pledged and banked for Obama" leading up to the California Democratic primary "by registering and organizing people to vote by mail, and by organizing early voting in key geographic regions." The website also mentions "educating and mobilizing voters about Obama in many non-traditional ways, including online social networking, concerts, faith-based tours and other cultural events." The site does not indicate that television ads will be part of Vote Hope's strategy. Todd said: "There's no evidence that it's going to be somehow a group that's going to launch negative attacks on Obama's opponents." Todd also claimed that "what's interesting" about Vote Hope "is that it is registering as a 527," which Todd described as "one of those markings that have been a bogeyman of sorts of campaign politics."
Media Matters for America has extensively documented the falsehoods and smears regarding Kerry's military record spread by the Swift Vets.
During the segment, MSNBC ran two alternating on-screen captions that compared Vote Hope to the Swift Vets. The first caption read: "First 'Swift-Boat'-Style Group Formed in 2008 Presidential Race," while the second read: "What Role Will 'Swift-Boat'-Style Groups Play in 2008 Campaign?"
From the June 22 edition of MSNBC Live:
ROBACH: Good morning everyone. I'm Amy Robach. Three years after the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth slammed John Kerry in the harshest attack ads of the 2004 presidential race, the first similar group of this campaign ads have been formed. The group is called Vote Hope 2008 and was created to help Barack Obama. For today's first read in politics, let's check in with NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Chuck, thanks for being with us.
TODD: Good morning.
ROBACH: So, what do we know about this group?
TODD: Well, it's been founded by a couple of California Democratic donors, major activists and their -- it's a group that's supportive of Barack Obama. There's no evidence that it's going to be somehow a group that's going to launch negative attacks on Obama's opponents. On their website, they're very much talking about how they want to support Obama, try to raise a bunch of money to try to help him in the California primary, because California's primary is about a month after the first four or five contests, but what's interesting about it is that it is registering as a 527.
This is one of those groups -- one of those markings that have been a bogeyman of sorts of campaign politics. [Sen.] John McCain [R-AZ] has criticized them. Barack Obama has also criticized these groups, so it'll be interesting to see how many of them pop up. Frankly, it's surprising that this is the first one -- first major one, on any side.
ROBACH: Yeah, and Chuck, so if someone like Barack Obama, who has -- more so perhaps than any other candidate -- run on this positive theme where he wants to have politics different from years past, does he have any say or any control over what this group disseminates?
TODD: Well, he doesn't, and it's part of what I think we're seeing, this open-source campaign politics. You know, last week, we had the Obama Girl video, which was done by a supporter, but not somebody the campaign sanctioned. Remember the Apple ad that attacked [Sen. Hillary Rodham] Clinton [D-NY] basically, but again, it was made by a supporter, not somebody that was sanctioned by the campaign, so it's going to be quite difficult frankly for all the major contenders I think to police this stuff, and what'll be interesting is: How hard will they try?
You know, will the Obama campaign, you know, ask these groups, you know, "Don't do this. Don't spend this money." What will they be asked to do? You know, and, look, this is going to be the same for the Clinton camp, [Former Gov. Mitt] Romney [R-MA], [Former New York Mayor] Giuliani [R], you name it. I think all of the campaigns are going to see this happen.