WASHINGTON — Moveon.org, the antiwar organization that started five years ago with a plea to Congress to drop the impeachment case against President Clinton, today will launch its latest advertising salvo of the 2004 election season.
In a $2-million media campaign scheduled to run for two weeks in five states that could prove critical in next year's race, Moveon.org's voter fund is airing a 30-second spot that questions the recent federal appropriation of $87 billion that is targeted mostly for Iraq.
The commercial cites the billions going to Iraq, then cuts to a shot of a little boy sitting at a school desk in an empty lot. The announcer asks, "Where's his plan for taking care of America?"
The ads are running in Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Missouri and West Virginia.
Wes Boyd and his wife, Joan Blades, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who invented the "flying toaster" computer screen saver, founded Moveon.org in 1998. Now they are spearheading the organization's voter fund, a spinoff meant to capitalize on the campaign finance reform law approved last year.
That law prohibits political parties from accepting unlimited donations that became known as "soft money." But groups unaffiliated with the parties can accept such contributions and spend their money on their causes.
Several such groups have already made their mark on the political season, tapping into liberal activists who formerly wrote large checks to the Democratic Party.
Billionaires George Soros and Peter Lewis, for instance, contributed $10 million each to America Coming Together, an advocacy group hoping to mobilize voters to support the Democratic presidential nominee in 17 states where next year's election could be close.
The billionaires also have pledged up to $5 million for Moveon.org's efforts to defeat President Bush.
Boyd said the group's ad campaign represents a new model for such efforts. Launched at a time when voters are often distracted by the holidays and when buying media time is more expensive, the campaign is based on the idea that issues, not calendars, can drive public opinion.
Traditionally, Boyd said, candidates and advocacy groups hold fundraisers throughout the campaign season, develop a large war chest and then buy a rash of television commercials to sway public opinion just before the election. "We don't think that model will work anymore," he said. "The American public is cynical; people block out the ads because they are coming at them so strong during the last few months."
Instead, said Boyd, Moveon.org wants to respond to issues when they are topical. "We think this is about getting people engaged," he said.
Earlier ads financed by Moveon.org ran in late October and called attention to the loss of more than 2 million manufacturing jobs that has occurred during the Bush administration.