Controversial GOP operative Rick Reed is no stranger to torpedoing Democrats — but now he’s turning his fire on Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) nascent presidential campaign.
Reed’s little-known conservative nonprofit group, the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America (FSPA), hijacked what was supposed to be a weeklong victory lap for Paul with a series of well-timed and meticulously-placed ads slamming his foreign policy positions.
As the president of FSPA, Reed is returning to a familiar role: He produced the 2004 ads from Swift Vets and POWs for Truth that targeted then-Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) Vietnam War record.
The ads upended that presidential race, and the term “swift-boating” has since become political shorthand for an untruthful or unfair smear. Reed has continued to defend the ads, citing the veterans who spoke out in them.
“The media have termed ‘swift boating’ as illegitimate, unwarranted attacks,” he wrote in a 2008 op-ed in the Washington Times. “According to the swift boat veterans I know it is defined as ‘exposing a political figure as a fraud’.”
Reed and his cohorts have been roiling political campaigns since the 1980s. One of Reed’s former partners at the GOP media strategy group Stevens, Reed, Curcio & Potholm, the firm that produced the swift-boat attack ads, was the now-deceased Greg Stevens.
In 1988, Stevens produced the ad portraying former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in a tank, which became the defining image of the Democrat’s presidential bid, making him look weak and silly on national security. Dukakis was unable to recover.