Think of it as a rematch.
In 2004, Alan Keyes — the Christian conservative activist and perennial long-shot candidate — lost the Illinois Senate race by a landslide to a state senator named Barack Obama.
Now, as Obama runs for president, Keyes is the presidential nominee of America’s Independent Party (which sees John McCain as too liberal and the Keyes campaign as an “extension” of the 2004 race against Obama.)
Obama certainly doesn’t face much of a challenge from Keyes’ candidacy, but separately two former top Keyes campaign officials are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars through a Keyes-founded political action committee to defeat Obama.
The Life and Liberty PAC, an anti-abortion organization, has spent nearly $700,000 since February on phone calls, direct mail and canvassing against Obama. The group’s chair is Mary Parker Lewis, who served as Keyes’ chief of staff for his presidential runs in 1996 and 2000, and his treasurer in the 2004 race against Obama. Life and Liberty’s chief financial officer is Bill Constantine, who was treasurer for Keyes’ 2000 run and is listed as assistant treasurer for the 2004 race. Constantine said that though Keyes founded the PAC, he isn’t currently involved.
“The issues haven’t changed,” Constantine told us. “The reasons Barack Obama was bad for Illinois are the same reasons he’s bad for America.”
Life and Liberty PAC is just one component in a cluster of groups linked to Keyes.
Keyes, Lewis and Constantine also head up the Keyes-founded Declaration Foundation and affiliated Declaration Alliance, which has spent millions on the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a project that includes patroling the border for illegal immigrants. The constellation of organizations include several political action committees that are blasting out direct mail pieces against Obama.
The Declaration Alliance Minuteman Civil Defense Corps PAC, for which Lewis is treasurer and Constantine is listed as a contact, spent $72,000 in the last two months criticizing Obama. Constantine says the committee “has really gained more speed since Sarah Palin joined the McCain campaign.” Before Palin, he said, there wasn’t any “distinct difference” between the candidates on immigration. The group’s mail is done by the Richard Norman Company, a popular direct-mail contractor among Republicans, which did work for Keyes’ 2004 campaign as well as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Back when Keyes was fighting Obama for the Senate seat, he would send out attack points called “The Daily Obamanation.” Obamanation was defined as “the act of saying something to a target audience with the sole purpose of currying favor, while in fact having acted in direct opposition to the expressed idea.”
One of the pieces accused Obama of supporting sex education for kindergartners. Sound familiar? Another called him “The Criminals’ Best Friend.” Yet another said Obama supported infanticide. For Keyes’ former aides, there should be plenty of material to recycle for the 2008 election.
This originally appeared on The Secret Money Project Blog, a joint project of CIR and National Public Radio tracking the hidden cash in the 2008 election.