PHILADELPHIA – A political operative has sued presidential campaign adviser David Axelrod over Axelrod’s claim that he came up with the attack strategy that saved an embattled Philadelphia mayor in 2003.
Philadelphia campaign consultant Frank Keel said it was his idea to blame Republicans for the FBI listening device found in Democratic Mayor John Street’s office.
Keel considers the decision to attack then-President George W. Bush’s Republican administration “a defining moment” of his career.
“His brazen and successful handling of the crisis launched Keel to the forefront of his profession,” said the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this week and first reported on by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In his new book, “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics,” Axelrod takes credit for the plan to accuse the Republican-led Justice Department of trying to sink Street’s re-election bid.
The FBI bugged Street’s office as part of a “pay-to-play” probe that led to the indictments of a city treasurer, a top Street fundraiser and 10 others. The mayor was never charged and denied wrongdoing.
Street had initially been quiet about the bug found in his City Hall office but went on the attack as the campaign claimed that Republicans did it. Weeks later, he won re-election in a landslide.
Axelrod, in a statement, said his book does not rule out the possibility that other advisers “arrived at the same conclusion or proceeded on parallel tracks.”
Keel also sued Penguin Random House, Axelrod’s publisher. It dismissed Keel’s claims as “utterly absurd.”
Axelrod served as President Barack Obama’s chief campaign strategist in 2008 and 2012.