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Tuesday, April 20, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Campaign Notebook
Kerry reacts to claims of Saudi deal

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LAKE WORTH, Fla. — Sen. John Kerry lambasted President Bush yesterday for creating a "sweetheart relationship" with Arab countries and called "disgusting" a Saudi government pledge, described in a new book, to cut oil prices before the election.

"Now, if this sounds wrong to you, that's because it is fundamentally wrong, and if (it's) true that gas supplies and prices in America are tied to the American election ... that is outrageous and unacceptable," the presumptive Democratic nominee told a town meeting here.

The Saudi government denied yesterday that it would cut petroleum prices to boost Bush's re-election.

Kerry's remarks, during a three-day swing through Florida, came as his campaign launched three new television ads, aimed largely at female voters, that challenge Bush on abortion rights and the environment.

Nader urges Iraq pullout and calls Bush 'unstable'

WASHINGTON — Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader called yesterday for a total American withdrawal from Iraq within six months, pulling out all U.S. military forces, civilian contractors and corporate interests.

But Nader, in a breakfast meeting with reporters, said he does not expect President Bush to take such a step because he is an "unstable president" and a "messianic militarist" whose actions and rhetoric fuel perceptions among Islamic extremists that the U.S. is waging a religious war.

Nader's call for a quick pullout also is dramatically different from the stay-the-course position of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry.

Nader said he found troubling Bush's repeated references to God in justifying his Iraq policy, because the United States has "a secular president who is supposed to keep his religious motives out of deciding whether or not to go to war." When Bush "does use messianic images like that he's telling the Islamic world this is a religious war. They hear him talking about doing the Lord's will and they say, 'What is this guy talking about? This is a war against Islam.' "

527s collect over $20 million in 1st quarter, records show
WASHINGTON — Fueled by money from Hollywood, unions and wealthy executives, the largest independent groups raising money to defeat President Bush in November collected more than $20 million in the first quarter of 2004, according to records released by the IRS.

Groups that were set up by Democratic insiders and are known as 527s because of the tax code that governs them have collected about $37 million since last year. But they are still far short of their goal, now estimated at $145 million. A group of three interconnected 527s — America Coming Together, the Media Fund and Joint Victory Campaign 2004 — have collected about $20 million this year to spend on the November elections. The groups have been spending millions of dollars on TV advertising in the 17 battleground states where the race for president is expected to be toughest.

Among the big givers to the Joint Victory Campaign 2004, the fund-raising arm for the Media Fund and America Coming Together, were producer Steve Bing, producer Marcy Carsey, Paul Newman and Norman Lear.

Bing topped all the Hollywood donors with a contribution of $5 million. Carsey gave $1 million. Newman ponied up $50,000 and Lear gave $20,000, IRS records show.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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