Republicans injected one of the region’s most emotionally charged murder cases into a tight Bucks County-based Congressional race late Wednesday night, attempting to tie Democratic challenger Kathryn Boockvar to convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal because of legal work Boockvar's husband performed in the mid-1990s and early 2000s.
The Republican attack, which includes a Web site post Wednesday and automated phone calls to voters set to begin Thursday, accuses Boockvar’s "husband-and-wife law firm" of representing "one of the leading activists" for Abu-Jamal. It also highlights her husband’s work as a lawyer "for a witness to the murder who accused the cops of pressuring her," according to a script of the call, which provides little context. (
“Call Kathy Boockvar … and tell her that’s too radical for Bucks County,” says the call, sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP's House campaign arm. (UPDATED: The full script is below).
Boockvar campaign manager Jon Blair responded with this statement:
“Congressman Fitzpatrick and his partners in Washington can make all the baseless accusations they want, but it won’t distract the intelligent voters of Bucks and Montgomery counties from the Congressman’s actual record, including voting to protect companies that outsource our jobs, flip-flopping on Social Security, voting twice to turn Medicare into a cripplingly expensive voucher system, and trying redefine rape,” he said. “These concrete facts, not wild charges, prove that Congressman Fitzpatrick is the wrong fit for the people of the Eighth District.”
The Republican accusations hinge on work by Jordan Yeager, Boockvar’s husband. The work cited by the GOP occurred more than a decade after Abu-Jamal’s 1982 conviction, though while protesters still contested his guilt. The GOP does not mention any work Boockvar did herself.
Instead Republicans point to work Yeager did while he and Boockvar were partners in their own firm. In 2000 Yeager represented Abu-Jamal’s literary agent, who was arrested and charged with petty crimes while protesting his Abu-Jamal's conviction. The agent, Frances Goldin, was 75 at the time and was one of 95 people arrested in the demonstration. The prominent agent, an Abu-Jamal supporter, later paid a fine and was sentenced to one year’s probation.
Yeager, while at a separate Philadelphia firm, worked in 1996 as an attorney for Veronica Jones, a woman who initially gave testimony against Abu-Jamal but later recanted, saying she had been pressured by police when she provided the first version of her story. Yeager told reporters in 1996 police were also trying to intimidate her with arrests on old charges after she changed her story.
The calls make no mention of the time frame of Yeager’s work. Republican Web ads include a grainy photo of Abu-Jamal alongside an image of Boockvar, who was in her teens at the time of Abu-Jamal's conviction.
The attack, pulling in one of the most notorious names in the region, illustrates the intensity of the most hotly contested Congressional race in the Philadelphia-area and the pressure the GOP faces in trying to hold the closely divided district.
“Kathy Boockvar’s troubling past and long history of radical activism is a clear window into her beliefs and priorities,” said a statement from Paul Lindsay, communications director for the NRCC. “If Boockvar is willing to defend Mumia’s values, she’s not the right person to defend the values of Bucks County families.”
Fitzpatrick, in an interview Wednesday night, shortly before the NRCC site posted the new accusations, said he was unaware of the planned attack and could not comment on it.
“I’m not familiar with the call you’re talking about and I haven’t seen the Web site,” Fitzpatrick said. “This race is about jobs and the economy and which candidate is better equipped based upon experience and approach to get people back to work.”
Pressed on whether he would then denounce a personal attack, Fitzpatrick said he needed more information to comment on it.
The NRCC posted information about Yeager’s legal work on its Web site, “Radical Kathy,” which paints Boockvar as a left-wing extremist. Through various forms of media, Republicans hope to reach 200,000 to 300,000 voters on Friday.
The eighth district regularly flips between Republican and Democratic control and political analysts and operatives from both parties say it represents Democrats’ best chance to pick up a seat in this area. The district is a moderate one, so both candidates have attempted to claim the middle ground while portraying their opponent as an extremist.
On Wednesday Democrats released a recording of Fitzpatrick at a tea party fund raiser saying, “we need to support people who have a history and know what it is like to sign the front of a paycheck, not the back of a paycheck” and compared that statement to Mitt Romney’s ill-received remarks recorded at a fund raiser of his own. Fitzpatrick told the Allentown Morning-Call that he meant to say “not just the back of the paycheck.”
The new GOP line of attack takes the campaign fight to a new level.
The main thrust of the Republican message focuses on Yeager’s work for Goldin, a publicist for Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing police offer Daniel Faulkner but who became an international cause célèbre for many who believe he was wrongly accused.
Goldin, a prominent literary agent, was one of 95 protesters arrested in 1999 during a demonstration outside the Liberty Bell. Yeager later defended her against the charges she faced. He and Boockvar were partners in their own law firm at the time. Public records show that Goldin was charged with petty offenses related to the protest and, along with her one-year probation, charged a $25 assessment and $250 fine.
Other Abu-Jamal-related charges on the Web site relate to comments by people in the same organization as Boockvar and Yeager, but not anything they did themselves. One accusation cites an Abu-Jamal forum held last year by a lawyers' group Yeager once worked for, but he was not a member of the group when it hosted the event, according to the Boockvar campaign.
Another point mentions a "colleague" of Boockvar's who wrote a commentary on Abu-Jamal in 2007, criticizing the police. The author was a contractor at a non-profit, the Advancement Project, where Boockvar worked, her campaign said.
Boockvar's opponent in a 2011 race for Commonwealth Court cited that same commentary. Boockvar said then that the writing by a co-worker had “nothing to do with Kathryn Boockvar,” according to the Patriot News.
UPDATED - here is the script for the robo-calls being launched by the NRCC:
Hello, I’m calling from the National Republican Congressional Committee at 320 First Street
Southeast in Washington, DC 20003, 202-479-7000, with a recorded message about congressional candidate and legal activist Kathy Boockvar and convicted Philadelphia cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The husband-and-wife law firm of Boockvar and Yeager has represented one of the leading activists for Mumia Abu-Jamal – and Boockvar’s husband was a lawyer for a witness to the murder who accused the cops of pressuring her.
Boockvar's husband himself accused the Philadelphia police of intimidating witnesses to the murder.
Boockvar’s colleague at a legal activist group accused the Philadelphia police union of having the state’s Supreme Court in its pocket when it comes to Abu-Jamal.
Last year, a group tied to Boockvar’s husband, held an event at the Constitution Center honoring Mumia Abu-Jamal. The cop killer called into the event from prison.
Call Kathy Boockvar at (215) 839-9383 and tell her that’s too radical for Bucks County.