By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - The top anti-Bush group in the country has spent more money in Ohio than in any other state where it operates, a study released today shows.
America Coming Together, a nonprofit dedicated to defeating Bush by getting out anti-Bush votes, has deployed at least 700 people in Ohio and spent $1.1 million. And those figures cover October through March, before the campaign in Ohio got even fiercer.
"This probably confirms something many Ohioans suspected: They really are the focus of the election," said Derek Willis, who wrote the report for The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan Washington group that monitors money in politics.
A separate analysis by Willis, performed at the Enquirer's request, showed that the group has been focusing on Columbus and Cleveland and other Democratic areas. It spent less money in Cincinnati than it did in Shaker Heights or Beachwood, two Cleveland suburbs.
"We've knocked on more than 100,000 doors in Cincinnati since last September and talked to more than 20,000 people at their doors in Cincinnati," said ACT Ohio's spokesman, Jess Goode.
The organization is legally barred from "coordinating" with the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry, though no one is quite sure what that means. The group works closely with labor-funded groups and its top donors include financier George Soros, Cleveland insurance executive Peter Lewis and RealNetworks founder Rob Glaser.
The Bush campaign charges that America Coming Together is the voter registration arm of the Democratic Party and the Kerry campaign. The group has also acknowledged employing felons for the door-to-door canvassing.
"People in Ohio have the right to know whether or not convicted rapists or murderers are showing up at their door registering voters," said Bush campaign spokesman Kevin Madden. "It says a lot about their campaign. Ohio voters are going to take that into account when they cast their ballots."
Goode said the group sends out about 200 to 250 people every night to register voters and lobby them to oppose President Bush.
"Our policy is to not hire felons with any violent history or who we feel would cause any concern whatsoever," said Goode. The group is conducting background checks on all its employees.
Ohio was the first state where America Coming Together set up campaign offices, doing so last October. Ohio is considered one of the key swing states - if not the key swing state - in the 2004 presidential election, a fact Ohioans can hardly have missed between the ads, the candidate visits, and the canvassers from groups like ACT.
Higher gasoline tax kicks in today
Pair of homers just divine for nun
Hiker's fall a lesson in gorge survival
Briefing leaves Maupins with hope, but no news
IN THE TRISTATE
'Partial birth' ban in effect
Health groups announce changes
Yates fast to jump on board for gambling
Tests find more lead in yards
GE donations make impact for organizations and people
Critical eyes on health levies
Go 4th: fun, fireworks
Liberty's new head a resident since 1997
Ex-deputy found guilty in drug case
Children's study: Obese kids at risk
Ohio epicenter of anti-Bush group's national offensive
Ex-treasurer will repay funds, says her attorney
More money for Lakota
Union Twp. trustee's death leaves board to fill vacancy
Public safety briefs
Bronson: Drake Center doesn't need to go negative
Young People's Theatre hopping
Alvin L. Schulte owned N.Ky. drugstores
Arthur Wiedenbein, 57, trustee, 'visionary'
Williamstown may get 'wet'
Bohman 'likely' to run for board of education
Kentucky news briefs
Judge approves Fletcher's plan
Fireworks fizzle, but ballpark beer $1
Multi-vehicle crash kills trucker, closes I-71
Independence gets life squads
Kenton joins Scholars initiative