Bush family member angered by Republican Senate candidate's ads in Georgia

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 18, 2014 6:49 PM

By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - Neil Bush, son and brother of two former presidents, has denounced assertions in political ads for Republican Senate nominee David Perdue in Georgia that an organization founded by Bush's father funneled money to extremist groups.

Bush is chairman of the Points of Light Foundation, which was run for several years by Perdue's Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn.

A second critical ad was released on Wednesday, two days after Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, endorsed Perdue.

Though Georgia has not elected a Democratic senator since 2000 and Perdue has a slight edge in the polls, Democrats view the open seat as winnable as they fight to maintain control of the Senate.

In an internal Nunn campaign memo published by National Review magazine in July, several vulnerabilities are listed for the first-time candidate, including the perception that Points of Light under Nunn gave "service awards to inmates, terrorists."

The memo is referring to $13,500 that eBay users, and not Points of Light, gave to the U.S. affiliate of Islamic Relief Worldwide, a federally approved charity, according to Politifact.org, a fact-checking website.

The ads - one paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the other by the Perdue campaign, and both with the candidate's approval - state the memo lists these as facts, rather than as potential opposition talking points.

"Neither Points of Light nor Michelle Nunn have had anything to do with funneling money from our organization to terrorist organizations," Neil Bush said on Tuesday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper.

"It really makes my blood boil to think that someone would make that kind of an allegation," he added, according to the newspaper.

Neil Bush declined to comment to Reuters through a spokeswoman.

George H.W. Bush's spokesman, Jim McGrath, said on Thursday the former president felt compelled to endorse Perdue after Nunn's campaign earlier this year without permission used a photograph of him with Nunn to highlight their ties.

"President Bush felt very strongly that he had to clear up any erroneous perception as to who he supported in this critical race for America’s future," McGrath said by email.

The former president had no comment on the ads, McGrath said.

Megan Whittemore, spokeswoman for the Perdue campaign, defended linking Nunn to extremists.

"Michelle Nunn's own campaign plan raises these serious concerns about her group's association with terrorist-linked organizations," Whittemore said by email.

(Additional reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)