[FoRK] RNC trying to bully stations into ditching anti-Bush ads

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Sun Mar 7 19:58:05 PST 2004

If this doesn't just about tell the whole story...


RNC tells TV stations not to run anti-Bush ads
GOP committee says MoveOn.org's spots are illegally financed

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Republican National Committee is warning 
television stations across the country not to run ads from the 
MoveOn.org Voter Fund that criticize President Bush, charging that the 
left-leaning political group is paying for them with money raised in 
violation of the new campaign-finance law.

"As a broadcaster licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, 
you have a responsibility to the viewing public, and to your licensing 
agency, to refrain from complicity in any illegal activity," said the 
RNC's chief counsel, Jill Holtzman Vogel, in a letter sent to about 250 
stations Friday.

"Now that you have been apprised of the law, to prevent further 
violations of federal law, we urge you to remove these advertisements 
from your station's broadcast rotation."

But MoveOn.org's lawyer, Joseph Sandler, said in a statement that the 
ads were funded legally, calling the RNC's letter "a complete 
misrepresentation of the law."

"The federal campaign laws have permitted precisely this use of money 
for advertising for the past 25 years," he said.

And MoveOn.org, which was planning to spend $1.9 million on an ad buy 
that started Thursday, said Friday that it would spend another $1 

'Soft money' targeted

The RNC charges that because the ads are designed to help defeat 
President Bush, the group cannot pay for them with unlimited "soft 
money" contributions but only with contributions raised in amounts less 
than $5,000.

Although MoveOn.org is a so-called "Section 527" organization that is 
legally allowed to raise soft money in unlimited amounts from donors, 
the new campaign-finance law prohibits the group from using those funds 
to pay for ads that directly attack Bush, Vogel said.

And in a bit of political one-upmanship, the letter quotes the 
presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry, as saying that the 
objective of the new law "is to eliminate altogether the capacity of 
soft money to play the role that it does in our politics."

But MoveOn.org says it has raised $10 million for advertising from 
160,000 donors, in amounts averaging $50-$60. It is running two ads in 
67 TV markets in what its Web site describes as 17 "battleground" 

"It's not surprising that [RNC Chairman] Ed Gillespie continues to make 
false claims about the legality of our campaign in order to silence 
us," Wes Boyd, president of the voter fund, said in a statement. "Our 
lawyers continue to assure us that our advertising, and the small 
contributions from tens of thousands of our members that pay for it, 
conform in every way to existing campaign-finance laws."

The group maintains that a recent ruling from the Federal Election 
Commission supports the method it is using to fund the ads. But in her 
letter to the stations, Vogel said that FEC ruling makes it clear that 
any ad that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" a federal 
candidate comes under the contribution limits, which she charges MoveOn 
is violating.

One of the ads, called "Worker," ends with the tag line, "George Bush. 
He's not on our side." The other, called "Child's Play," shows small 
children working at various jobs and ends with the tag line, "Guess 
who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?"

RNC: Problem with funding, not content

Vogel insisted that the RNC's problem with the ads stemmed from their 
funding, not their content.

"I write not because of the misleading allegations contained in the 
advertisement, which will be answered in due time, but because running 
this advertisement breaks the law," Vogel's letter said.

MoveOn.org has been running ads for several months on cable channels, 
which don't fall under FCC regulations. However, CBS refused to 
broadcast the group's ads during the Super Bowl, saying the network did 
not run issue advertising.

MoveOn.org and other groups trying to defeat Bush have been raising 
money to help the Democratic nominee compete with the president's vast 
war chest in the period between the end of the Democratic primaries and 
the political conventions. The Bush-Cheney campaign, which launched its 
first ad salvo this week, has more than $100 million to spend.

The RNC has complained that though it is no longer allowed to use soft 
money for campaigning, MoveOn.org is accepting large soft money 
contributions from a cadre of wealthy donors, including billionaire 
financier George Soros and film producer Steven Bing, in its quest to 
defeat the president.

Soros has said ousting Bush this year is now the "central focus of my 

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