US Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, is the Democrat the Bush administration loves to hate. White House political director Karl Rove personally selected Wellstone’s Republican challenger in the November 5 election, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman, and Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush have visited Minnesota again and again on Coleman’s behalf.
But Minnesotans have not taken to the high-level pressure. Bush made a swing through the state last week on Coleman’s behalf, but it was Wellstone whose poll numbers went up. Actually, Wellstone’s numbers have been rising ever since he voted against the president’s request for blank-check authorization to launch a war with Iraq. After months of too-close-to-call poll numbers, the headline of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune on Sunday announced, “Wellstone edges into lead in U.S. Senate race.” The Star-Tribune’s latest poll found the two-term liberal Democratic senator to be ahead by a 47-41 margin among likely voters.
But that doesn’t mean Wellstone is sure to beat Bush, er, Coleman.After the poll results were released, a shadowy Virginia group that campaign finance analysts have linked to the Bush family and George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign — as well as to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and the Republican Party — made a record-breaking $1 million purchase of television and radio advertising time to attack Wellstone.
The deceptively named group Americans For Job Security is behind the big buy — which will likely exceed the amount of money the Wellstone campaign or the Democratic Party will spend in the final weeks before the election. Headquarted in Alexandria, Virginia, Americans for Security first came on the scene five years ago, when it got started with a $1 million contribution from the American Insurance Association. The American Forest and Paper Association chipped in another $1 million.
Described by the The Annenberg Public Policy Center as a “a tax-exempt conservative, business-backed pro-Republican organization formed in October 1997 to lobby for: reduced taxes, less government regulation, free trade, and downsizing government,” it has been linked with a previous initiative by the US Chamber of Commerce and business lobbies that spent $5 million in the 1996 election cycle.
In May, 2000, a Washington Post report raised the prospect that Trent Lott was pressuring high-tech lobbyists for contributions to the organization, which that year launched television advertising campaigns attacking the Democratic challengers to several vulnerable Republican senators. (Among the corporations reported to have contributed to Americans for Job Security following that meeting was Microsoft. More recently, pharmaceutical firms have been reported to be prime funders of the group.)