WASHINGTON (AP) - A conservative anti-tax group Wednesday expanded its ad campaign against Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, helped by a major GOP donor who bankrolled ads that questioned Democrat John Kerry's war record during the 2004 campaign.
The Club for Growth is spending $175,000 to continue running ads in Iowa that highlight tax increases adopted in Arkansas when Huckabee was governor. During the past three weeks, the group has spent $550,000 to criticize Huckabee's economic policies.
According to Federal Election Commission records, ClubForGrowth.net received $200,000 this month from Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder who in 2004 pumped nearly $4.5 million into the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth to pay for unsubstantiated ads that questioned Kerry's Vietnam service.
Perry contributed $2,300, the maximum allowed, to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is Huckabee's top rival in Iowa. Romney has been running his own ads against Huckabee, criticizing his record on immigration and taxes.
Perry has donated to the Club for Growth in the past, including $150,000 during the 2006 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Another major donor is Jackson T. ``Steve'' Stephens Jr., a Little Rock, Ark., businessman and member of the Club for Growth's board of directors. Stephens is a longtime critic of Huckabee who once considered running against him for governor. He has donated $200,000 to the group, including $100,000 this month.
He owns ExOxEmis Inc., a biomedical business that produces enzyme-based therapeutic drugs. Like Perry, Stephens has contributed large sums to the Club for Growth in the past.
Club for Growth spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik said Stephens' presence on the board and his contributions are not driving the campaign against Huckabee.
``He is on our board and is a voice as much as any other member,'' she said. ``If you look at Huckabee's record, on economic issues, he's is the worst Republican in this race.''
The Club for Growth has not been shy about trying to defeat Republicans.
In 2006, it mounted a primary election campaign against Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., a moderate who had voted against President Bush's tax cuts. Chafee eventually lost to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in the general election.
This year, the Club for Growth also is running ads against Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., who is facing a primary challenge from Maryland State Sen. Andrew Harris.