The New Jersey Senate race is about to become a good deal dirtier. From the Times
The Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey, Thomas Kean Jr., intends to make a campaign film that accuses his Democratic opponent, Robert Menendez, of "being wrapped up in the rackets for 30 years" despite public records and statements by former federal prosecutors that contradict Mr. Kean's most serious charges.
Mr. Kean's chief campaign consultant, Matt Leonardo, a strategist for Republican candidates, disclosed the plans in an interview and said the film would be "very similar" in purpose to the commercials used to attack the military record of John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race.
more outrage below:
As with the original Swift Boat ads the anti-Menendez attack is intended to turn one of Menendez's strong points into a weakness. Menendez was
involved in a big corruption case early in his political career -- only he was the hero of the case, opposing corrupt practices and eventually testifying against the bigwigs in his own political organization.
The Kean campaign tries to paint Menendez as part of the corruptions scheme, but:
Mr. Kean's charges are not, however, supported by the public record and were repudiated by independent authorities including the four assistant United States attorneys who prosecuted Union City officials of that era for racketeering and corruption. There is no truth, those former officials say, to the Kean campaign's charge that Mr. Menendez made a deal to keep himself out of prison.
The prosecutors said the actions of Mr. Menendez, as the secretary of the Union City Board of Education from 1978 to 1982, were "gutsy" and "courageous." They said he was never in legal jeopardy. During a four-month trial in 1981 and 1982, the corrupt contractor at the center of the scheme testified that Mr. Menendez created headaches for the plotters when he balked at processing fraudulent paperwork needed for a kickback scheme.
Unlike in Kerry's case, however, this attack is being produced and paid for directly by the Kean campaign. It will be impossible to keep the candidates nasty little fingerprints off it.
The only question now is will it be effective or will it backfire? I know we were all gratified by Jim Webb's response to Felix Allen in Virginia when the Felix's campaign tried to smear Allen this week. Now we have a chance to see whether New Jersey Democrats have figured out how to respond to this kind of attack.