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Forbes Angered By Negative Phoning

January 24, 2000

AMES, Iowa (AP) _ Republican presidential contender Steve Forbes said Sunday that a Republican group with ties to rival George W. Bush is coordinating a negative telephone campaign against him. The effort proves he is ``a real threat to the political establishment,″ Forbes said on the eve of Iowa’s caucuses.

The group, the Republican Leadership Council, acknowledged it called supporters for eight days, ending Friday, to remind them that ``Steve Forbes has a history of negative attack ads and negative campaigning.″ Forbes said his campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

Callers who responded favorably to the RLC’s warning were patched straight through to Forbes’ Iowa headquarters or were urged to call the campaign directly, said RLC communications director Matt Well. The RLC conducted a similar effort in New Hampshire, Well said.

``We want to remind Steve Forbes that (negative) ads only tear down the Republican Party,″ Well said. ``We asked them if they would like to voice in their own words to the Forbes campaign how they felt about his negative ads, to ask the Forbes campaign to run a clean campaign on the issues.″

At the same time, the Forbes campaign acknowledged it was calling Bush supporters in Iowa to try to sway them at the 11th hour. One resident who said he received such a call, Brad Trow, a Bush precinct leader, said he considered the appeal ``negative calling.″

He said the caller identified himself as a Forbes campaign representative and said Bush had broken a pledge not to raise taxes in Texas. ``They are not pushing their candidate, they are trying to push negative information about other candidates,″ Trow said.

Forbes campaign manager Bill Dal Col confirmed the campaign was calling Bush supporters Sunday night on four issues: taxes, education, Social Security and abortion.

``It’s not negative phoning,″ Dal Col said, adding that the Forbes campaign was ``not saying so and so is a jerk like the RLC is. These are respectful and straightforward.″

Forbes was criticized in 1996 for a series of hard-hitting ads that Republicans said undermined the campaign of eventual nominee Bob Dole.

Forbes said after a rally at Iowa State University that the weeklong campaign was really the work of the Bush campaign, and characterized the RLC as a ``pro-abortion, liberal organization.″

``Sadly, it’s a typical procedure of the Republican establishment,″ Forbes told reporters. ``I think that underscores that we’re a very real threat to the political establishment, that we are gaining real strength here. ... I’m sad to see that it’s happening again, but I’m not surprised at all.″

Well said about 70 percent of the RLC’s advisory board supports Bush, but said the group decided to conduct the phone effort without conferring with Bush’s campaign.

Bush spokeswoman Mindy Tucker said the Bush campaign had nothing to do with the RLC calls and only calls Iowa voters to ask them to support Bush.

Forbes said Dal Col has filed a complaint with the FEC accusing the Bush campaign and the RLC of improper coordination.

The Forbes campaign received about 200 such calls directed to it from the RLC, Dal Col said. He said the calls _ about 20 a day _ did not hamper the campaign, but were a nuisance.

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