In a $2.2 billion election, two relatively small expenditures by [Bush] and his allies stand out for their impact: the $546,000 ad buy by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and the Bush campaign's $3.25 million contract with the firm TargetPoint Consulting. The first portrayed [John F. Kerry] in unrelentingly negative terms, permanently damaging him, while the second produced dramatic innovations in direct mail and voter technology, enabling Bush to identify and target potential voters with pinpoint precision.
Harold Ickes, who ran the Media Fund, a 527 organization that raised about $59 million in support of Kerry, said the federal election law prohibiting communication with the Kerry campaign created insurmountable obstacles in crafting effective, accurate responses to anti-Kerry ads. Ickes said he regretted not responding to the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks, but at the time he thought they seemed "a matter so personal to Senator Kerry, so much within his knowledge. Who knew what the facts were?"
During March and April, before the candidate had replenished his war chest to finance TV ads, Kerry strategists were convinced that Kerry needed a barrage of positive biographical ads describing him in a sympathetic light to counter the negative picture drawn by the Bush ads. But when the Democratic 527s began their ad campaign, they aired negative ads reflecting their intensely anti-Bush donor base.
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