Massachusetts critics plan anti-Romney Web site

BOSTON -- A group of Massachusetts Republicans is planning to launch a Web site on Monday that highlights flip-flops in the record of their former leader, presidential contender Mitt Romney.

The so-called Massachusetts Republicans for Truth is also pledging to run radio and television ads across the country as Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, seeks the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.

He has acknowledged changing from a supporter of abortion rights to an opponent, and recently signed a no-new-taxes pledge that his gubernatorial spokesman had previously labeled "gimmickry." During a 1994 Senate race, Romney also pledged to be more effective in fighting for gay rights than his opponent, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., although today Romney highlights his ardent opposition to gay marriage.

"I think heís trying to reinvent himself as a candidate," said Holly Robichaud, one of the siteís organizers. "If thatís what he wants to do, thatís fine. We just want to tell people his entire record. Itís up to the voters to decide if heís trustworthy on the issues."

Robichaud briefly managed last yearís gubernatorial campaign for Romney critic Christy Mihos. She also managed the 2002 lieutenant governor campaign of James Rappaport, whom Romney opposed and helped defeat for the No. 2 post.

Robichaud plans to raise most of the siteís funding from outside Massachusetts, but said she is not being supported by or doing the bidding of rival campaigns.

Word of the site was first reported Friday in the Boston Herald, where Robichaud contributes to a weekly political column.

The Romney campaign frequently cites its support from other Massachusetts Republicans, including former Gov. William F. Weld and former Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, both of whom have raised money for Romney.

"It seems to be a couple of disgruntled political operatives who disagreed with the governor, looking to keep busy during the presidential campaign season," said Romney spokesman Kevin Madden. "I expect that theyíre going to peddle some anger and plenty of distortion. They may be entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts, and the facts about the governor are that his strong pro-fiscal conservative and pro-family advocacy are clear."

Massachusetts Republicans for Truth is being organized as a "527," the name derived from the federal tax exemption that allows such organizations to influence elections with little disclosure of their financial backers. Such groups are allowed to do so if they do not expressly advocate the election or defeat of a particular candidate.

A similar group, "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," dogged Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., over his Vietnam War record when he was his partyís presidential nominee in 2004.

Romney has lost the support of several Massachusetts conservatives, including Jean Inman, the former chairwoman of the Massachusetts Republican Party. Meanwhile, former Gov. Paul Cellucci has decided to back rival Rudy Giuliani, while former acting Gov. Jane Swift has thrown her support to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Robichaud claims to have the backing of 40 state Republicans, although she would not identify them until the Web site is launched on Monday. She said Rappaport, a millionaire, is not among them and is not providing financing.

Romney has already been challenged by another Massachusetts conservative, Brian Camenker. He wrote a 28-page report portraying Romney as sympathetic to gay rights and sexual behavior that clashes with his portrayal as a defender of traditional values.

The report has been circulated among evangelical Christians and other social conservatives.

On the Net:

Massachusetts Republicans for Truth:
Romney for President: