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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE | AD WATCH

The Media Fund

March 30, 2004

The Media Fund, a pro-Democratic group formed to oppose President Bush's reelection, launched the 30-second television ad "Middle Class Tax Cuts" on Monday. The ad was expected to air in 17 states viewed as competitive by both campaigns. California is not among them.

Script: Male announcer: "The issue: Tax cuts for the middle class. John Kerry voted to eliminate the marriage penalty, and for an increased child tax credit. The Kerry economic plan: Roll back tax cuts for the wealthiest 1%; helping pay for a middle-class tax cut; don't reward corporations that export jobs overseas. George Bush? He raided Social Security to pay for a tax cut for millionaires. And he supported tax breaks for companies that export jobs. Bush's priorities won't strengthen America."

Images: The ad opens with presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry speaking to a crowd, then cuts to a man and woman reading to a child, then to a factory worker. Next, President Bush appears on the left of a split screen. On the right, pictures appear of two darkened figures shaking hands in a room, an empty building suggestive of a factory, an elderly woman looking worried, and a mansion.

Analysis: The ad portrays Kerry as an advocate for tax cuts targeting the middle class and tax increases for the wealthy, and launches a populist attack on Bush as biased toward millionaires and corporations that transfer jobs overseas. Many viewers may assume that the Kerry campaign sponsored the ad. In fact, it is paid for by the Media Fund, a separate organization financed largely by wealthy liberals. Republicans charge that the group is illegally coordinating its activity with the Kerry campaign, an accusation his aides deny. On Kerry's tax record, the ad is supported by citations from his voting record in the Senate. He did vote for Democratic proposals to cut taxes for married couples and boost tax credits for families with children. He also voted for the creation of the child credit in 1997. But Republicans correctly note that Kerry voted against GOP-written legislation in 2001 and 2003 that enacted tax cuts for married couples and expanded child credits. The ad's reference to the "wealthiest 1%" refers to Kerry's proposal to raise taxes on people who earn more than $200,000 per year. On Bush's record, it is accurate to say that his tax cuts have benefited millionaires and that the federal budget -- counting money in the Social Security trust fund -- has gone from surplus to deficit since he took office. Democrats blame that turnaround in large part on Bush's tax cuts. The president's supporters say the main reasons are spending required for the war on terrorism and revenue shortages stemming from the 2001 economic recession. The ad's point about jobs going overseas refers to a partisan dispute about international tax policy. Experts are divided on how much a Kerry tax proposal would do to reduce the jobs' exodus.

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Graphics reporting by Times staff writer Nick Anderson

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