Report shows Texas oilmen are major donors to Swift Boat group

Fri, Sep. 10, 2004 | Knight Ridder

Keywords: Swift Boat Veterans


WASHINGTON – Texas oilmen, led by takeover specialist T. Boone Pickens, helped fuel the anti-Kerry advertising campaign of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a report filed Friday shows.

Pickens contributed $500,000 to the group, the report said. A second oilman from Dallas, Albert Huddleston, contributed $100,000.

The group, whose controversial attacks on the war record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry have attracted national attention, claims it has raised $6.7 million, but it portrays itself as a grass-roots effort thriving on small contributions.

“The average contribution to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth is $65,” Weymouth Symmes, the group’s treasurer, said earlier this week.

The report filed with the Federal Elections Commission on Friday detailed 683 contributions totaling just over $1.9 million, none of them less than $100. Federal law requires organizations such as the veterans group to show how they’ve paid for advertising within 24 hours of the ads’ airing on television.

The group reported that it spent more than $700,000 to buy time for an anti-Kerry commercial now running on national cable television and paid for it with the contributions listed.

Pickens, 75, the founder of Mesa Petroleum, the largest independent oil and gas producer in the United States, made the largest contribution. A major Republican donor, he’s previously supported both Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush.

Huddleston, 51, also is a major Republican donor. The chief executive of Hyperion Resources Inc., an oil and gas company, he raised at least $100,000 for Bush’s 2000 campaign. He’s also a heavy donor to Republican candidates in Texas, giving $704,500 in 2002, according to the nonpartisan group Follow the Money, which monitors Texas political contributions. Follow the Money reported that Huddleston also gave $68,000 to Texas Democrats that same year.

Mike Russell, who works for the Washington-area public relations firm Creative Response Concepts, which represents the Swift boat group, declined Friday to discuss how Pickens or Huddleston had come to donate to the anti-Kerry effort.

“I’m not going to comment on any of our major donors,” Russell said. “We’re just not going to say anything other than we appreciate the support of major donors and minor donors. We appreciation donations of all kinds.”

Russell said Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had received donations from 53,000 people, most of whom had contributed through the group’s Web site. On Thursday alone, he said, 2,681 people had given $82,405.

“Like any organization, we have major donors and small contributors. I think the important thing is we have taken in a huge amount of grass-roots support.”

A fuller accounting of the group’s contributions is due in October.

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