While presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry was meeting with presumptive independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Kerry campaign operatives were coordinating with friends and allies in the amorphous 527 world to stab Nader in the back.
According to a Kerry campaign adviser, the campaign has been communicating through associates with former Gephardt, Dean and Clark presidential campaign staffers to set up anti-Nader websites.
"It's actually less anti-Nader and more pro-progressives for Kerry," says the campaign adviser in New York. "It's an appeal to the progressive to move away from a wasted vote for Nader and move to an empowering vote for Kerry."
After Kerry's Iowa caucus comeback, pins and bumper stickers that read "Dated Dean, Married Kerry" began popping up in New Hampshire and elsewhere. Now, the anti-Nader sites are using the slogan, "Slept with Nader woke up with Bush in 2000."
This is not a low-budget operation. Already there is a budget in place for the group to run TV advertising in Wisconsin, Florida, New Mexico, and Iowa.
Legally, Kerry campaign staff is barred from having contact with 527 groups -- those groups operating on unlimited, soft-money donations from organized labor and other special interest groups. But throughout the primary season, the campaigns of Democratic candidates have flouted the rules, and lately the Kerry campaign has through back channels attempted to coordinate messages with the groups, particularly in planning media spending in critical swing states around the country.