Swift Boat Watch: The American Issues Project

See all Swift Boat Watch entries here .

Who They Are: The American Issues Project

Purpose: Promoting conservative values

Founder: Ed Martin, former chief of staff to Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt

Funding: The organization recently named Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons as its sole funder, to the tune of $2.87 million. IRS reports show that Simmons gave $3 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004.

Cost: $2.87 million

Where It Ran: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia for eight days.

Claims: The spot attacks Barack Obama for his connections to William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground , which carried out bombings at the Capitol and other federal buildings in the 1970s. The ad says Obama’s “political career was launched in [Ayers’] home” and that they “served on a left-wing board in Chicago.”

Accuracy: While it’s true that Obama served with Ayers on a nonprofit board, it was the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago , a venerable anti-poverty organization in Chicago. Obama did visit Ayers’s home in 1995 , where his State Senate predecessor Alice Palmer introduced him as her chosen replacement. By this time, Ayers was somewhat more mainstream than he was in his Capitol-bombing days. The Washington Post describes him as a “respected member of the Chicago intelligentsia,”—an adviser to Mayor Richard Daley and an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.*

Background: The Obama campaign has claimed that because the group is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization , the ad’s direct reference to a candidate for office may have violated election law .

Swift Boat Rating:

Obama has interacted on multiple occasions with Ayers and the ad refers to true events. The spot exaggerates the closeness of the relationship, however, and the association between the Obama campaign and the Capitol bombings is a big stretch. (Obama was eight when the Weather Underground carried out its attacks.)

*Correction, Sept. 25, 2008: This piece originally stated that Ayers is a professor at the University of Chicago. In fact, he is a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.