GOP tries to link Bucks Democrat Boockvar to Abu-Jamal

Posted: September 28, 2012

The national Republican Party's congressional campaign arm is trying to link the Democrat in a close Bucks County race to convicted police killer Mumia Abu-Jamal by pointing to legal work her husband did more than a decade ago.

The GOP attack on Kathryn Boockvar, launched online late Wednesday and followed Thursday with automated phone calls to voters, focuses on her husband's defense of Abu-Jamal's literary agent in a 1999 arrest and on his previous role as lawyer for a witness in Abu-Jamal's murder trial.

Boockvar's husband and then-law partner defended literary agent Frances Goldin, 75 at the time, on charges of blocking a building during a protest - an offense the prosecutor in the case likened Thursday to a parking ticket.

In the robocalls, voters in the Eighth Congressional District, which includes most of Bucks County and some of Montgomery, are told Boockvar's and her husband's law firm defended "one of the leading activists" for Abu-Jamal, who is serving a life term for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner.

The calls emanated from the National Republican Congressional Committee. According to a script the group released, voters were also told Boockvar's husband defended "a witness to the murder who accused the cops of pressuring her." Voters were urged to call Boockvar and "tell her that's too radical for Bucks County."

Neither the calls nor the GOP group's website - which featured a photo of Abu-Jamal above an image of Boockvar - pointed to any actions or comments by Boockvar, who was in her teens when Abu-Jamal was convicted in 1982.

Boockvar said she had never met Abu-Jamal and called the attack desperate.

"This is the classic reaction that the Republicans seem to have when, A, they don't want to talk about the issues, and, B, they're starting to feel scared, frankly," she said. "This is dropping the atomic bomb of distraction."

When a reporter learned of the impending attacks and asked her Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, about them Wednesday, the congressman said he was unaware of any such planned attack via the Internet or robocalls and could not comment. "I'm not familiar with the call you're talking about and I haven't seen the website," he said.

In an interview Thursday night, Fitzpatrick said, "This race is not about campaign ads, it's about the truth and it's about jobs and the economy and which candidate has the best plan to get people back to work."

Asked what the attacks on Boockvar, through her husband, had to do with those issues, he said, "I'd refer that question to the NRCC," the House GOP campaign committee.

Pressed as to whether he saw the attacks as fair or whether he would denounce them, he said, "I've read the legal documents. They're troubling. It's up to my opponent to provide the background on if it's accurate."

The Republican accusations hinge on work by Jordan Yeager, Boockvar's husband.

In 2000, while Yeager and Boockvar were partners in their own firm, Yeager represented Goldin, whose website boasts a client list that includes the novelist Barbara Kingsolver and former New York Police Officer Frank Serpico, as well as Abu-Jamal. Goldin had been arrested and charged with a misdemeanor while protesting Abu-Jamal's conviction.

Goldin was one of 95 people arrested in the demonstration. She was fined $250 and got a year of probation, a typical penalty for such charges, said federal prosecutor Richard Goldberg, who handed the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Philadelphia.

"It's almost like a traffic ticket," Goldberg, who now heads the office's financial-crimes unit, said Thursday in an interview. He said Yeager's defense work focused only on Goldin's protest, not on Abu-Jamal's crimes.

The Republican attacks also point to Yeager's legal work while at a Philadelphia firm, where in 1996 he represented Veronica Jones, who initially gave testimony against Abu-Jamal but who later recanted, saying police had pressured her to help their case. Yeager told reporters in 1996 that police were also trying to intimidate her with arrests on old charges after she changed her story.

The robocall script makes no mention of the time frame of Yeager's work.

Along with a grainy photo of Abu-Jamal above an image of Boockvar, the ad the GOP posted online asks, "What's Kathy Boockvar's connection to convicted Philly cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal?" Text messages the GOP sent ask a similar question and provide a link to the site.

The attacks, highlighting one of the most notorious names in the region, illustrate the intensity of the most hotly contested congressional race in the Philadelphia area.

A spokesman for the House GOP campaign arm defended the attacks. "Kathy Boockvar's troubling past and long history of radical activism is a clear window into her beliefs and priorities," said a statement from spokesman Paul Lindsay. "If Boockvar is willing to defend Mumia's values, she's not the right person to defend the values of Bucks County families."

The committee posted information about Yeager's past legal work on its website radicalkathy.com, which paints Boockvar as a left-wing extremist. Through various forms of media, Republicans hope to reach from 200,000 to 300,000 voters on Friday with the attacks.

Political analysts say the district represents Democrats' best chance to pick up a seat in this area. Its voters are moderate, so each candidate has tried to claim the middle ground while portraying the other as an extremist.

On Wednesday, Democrats released a tape of Fitzpatrick at a fund-raising event 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 the words to Mitt Romney's now-well-known comments at a fund-raiser. Fitzpatrick told the Allentown Morning Call he meant to say, "Not just the back of the paycheck."

The Abu-Jamal messages take the fight to a new level.

"This is one of the hardest-hitting commercials that I've seen" in 30 years of monitoring politics, said G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin and Marshall College.

The GOP website also cites comments by people in the same lawyers' organization as Boockvar and Yeager, but not to anything the couple did or said themselves.

The GOP site also mentions a Boockvar "colleague" who criticized police in a 2007 commentary on Abu-Jamal. The author was a contractor at a nonprofit, the Advancement Project, where Boockvar worked, her campaign said.

Her rival in a 2011 race for Commonwealth Court cited the same commentary. Boockvar said then the writing had "nothing to do with Kathryn Boockvar," according to the Harrisburg Patriot-News.


Contact Jonathan Tamari at jtamari@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @Jonathan Tamari. Read his blog, "Capitol Inq" at www.philly.com/CapitolInq.

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