Jerome Corsi may be getting all the attention right now for his anti-Obama attack book, but there's another veteran political operative who has been toiling away to take down the Democratic candidate with a Swift-Boat-style campaign. And now, the two are working together.
Floyd Brown, whose most famous effort was the "Willie Horton ad" that damaged Democrat Michael Dukakis' presidential campaign in 1988, has been working on a viral campaign to send anti-Obama videos to millions of voters. His main organization, the National Campaign Fund, runs the Web site ExposeObama.com, which features videos linking Obama to gang violence and questioning Obama's assertion that he's never been a Muslim (below).
(The Obama campaign's "Fight the Smears" Web site has a special entry for Brown.)
Brown, in an interview today, says he has two more upcoming videos based on a collaboration with Corsi, co-author of the book that launched the crippling Swift Boat veterans critique of Democrat John Kerry in 2004. The new ads are based on Corsi's new book, "The Obama Nation."
But this election is different from the ones that produced Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Willie Horton ad.
Brown is running a strictly regulated political action committee funded only by small donors, instead of a 527 organization with unlimited donations like the Swift Boat group. That 527 and others were later fined by the Federal Election Commission for violating election laws, and Brown says that's enough to scare him off. "Would you go to jail for a political message?" he asked rhetorically.
And instead of concentrating on televised ads as he did in 1988, Brown is focusing almost all of his resources on a viral email and web campaign to spread his message.
"An ad on Monday Night Football where the guy's getting up to grab a beer [during commercials] is not more effective than where someone sits down and clicks an ad to watch all the way through," said Brown, who also notes that Web ads are much cheaper.
"We have just had a blitzing program, to blitz conservative websites and conservative email lists," he said. "We've sent millions of emails."
Brown says he's focusing on swaying conservatives because, when his group launched its effort earlier this year, some religious conservatives had a positive view of Obama. That — thanks to controversy over Obama's former pastor and, Brown says, the ExposeObama.com campaign — has faded.
Certainly, Brown's group has gained some traction. From April through June it raised nearly half a million dollars from small donors, according to FEC filings.
But why hasn't his or any other ads had the same impact as the Swift Boat ads or Willie Horton?
Brown tried casting one of his Obama ads as "Willie Horton II," (below), but that hasn't panned out.
Brown thinks the Horton ad — which blamed Dukakis for temporarily releasing a convicted felon who then raped a woman — gets too much credit, anyway. Dukakis, he says, helped do himself in. President Clinton, on the other hand, was much better at deflecting attacks. And what about Obama?
"If television and Hollywood manipulation are what decide this election, then Obama wins hands down," Brown says. "He's got the dough, he's got people like [David] Geffen and the whole Dreamworks crew. He's had a very effectively crafted campaign."
But it's not over yet.
"The Willie Horton ad didn't air till Labor Day," Brown says. "There's still a lot of time for things to happen."