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THE NATION

Democratic, GOP Groups Target Bush in New TV Ads

Gay Republicans decry his stance on same-sex marriage. A liberal fund blasts economic policies.

March 10, 2004|Nick Anderson | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Bush comes under attack in two television advertising campaigns being launched today, one by a Democratic-leaning group and the other by a gay Republican organization.

A $5-million campaign by the Media Fund, run by prominent Democratic consultant Harold Ickes, and the $1-million effort by the Log Cabin Republicans are part of an intensifying political ad war in the week since Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Bush reelection campaign began running ads late last week promoting the president's accomplishments and leadership. While Kerry focuses on replenishing his campaign treasury, the Media Fund and other groups, such as MoveOn.org Voter Fund, are paying for commercials to counter the Bush ads.

The Media Fund's ads had been anticipated, but the gay Republican effort is something of a surprise. The group's ad will oppose Bush's recent endorsement of a constitutional amendment to ban government recognition of same-sex marriage.

The president's move infuriated many gay Republicans, who accused him of seeking to use the growing controversy over gay marriages for political gain. Previously, the Log Cabin Republicans had praised Bush as a quiet but effective advocate for tolerance and for the political advancement of the gay community.

Details on the ad were to be announced at a news conference today.

The Media Fund's 30-second ad will air in 17 states where Bush's margin of victory or defeat in 2000 was no more than a few percentage points, said Jim Jordan, a spokesman for the group.

The ad attacks policies it says give tax breaks to corporations for moving jobs overseas, deepen the national debt and favor special interests. It charges: "George Bush's priorities are eroding the American dream. It's time to take our country back from corporate greed and make America work for every American."

Republicans countered that the Media Fund -- backed by large contributions from wealthy liberals, including billionaire George Soros -- was subverting the federal law that aims to reduce the influence of large contributions on politics.

"We believe they're in violation of campaign finance laws," said Terry Holt, a spokesman for Bush's reelection committee. Late Tuesday, the campaign's lawyers lodged a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

The commission is considering proposals to tighten rules for the Media Fund and other groups known as 527s, named for a section of the tax code that governs them.

At issue is when politically active organizations must use "hard money," subject to federal contribution limits, and when they may use unlimited "soft money" donations from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals. With certain exceptions, the campaign finance reform law passed by Congress in 2002 sought to keep soft money out of federal elections.

Jordan said the Media Fund was fully complying with the law. "These ads are absolutely legal and appropriate," he said.

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