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Inside Politics

Bush campaign to challenge ads

Media Fund calls allegations 'ridiculous'

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CNN-USA's political team brings you updates and analysis all evening, following Thursday's efforts by the Kerry camp to consolidate support among Democrats on the Hill and President Bush's trip to New York for a September 11 memorial ceremony and fund raising.
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Political advertising
Federal Election Commission

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign plans to file a complaint Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission, charging that a $5.1 million anti-Bush ad campaign in key battleground states violates the new campaign finance reform law, spokesman Terry Holt said.

The complaint alleges that the group running the ads, the Media Fund, is using so-called "soft" money contributions from deep-pocketed donors to pay for the ads, which is illegal under the new law because the ads seek to influence a race for federal office.

The Bush campaign is demanding that the FEC take "rapid action" and impose "severe sanctions" against the group, which was created by former Clinton adviser Harold Ickes and aided by Jim Jordan, the former campaign manager of the presumptive Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Jordan left the Kerry camp last November, when the Massachusetts senator decided to shake up his then-moribund campaign and bring in new leadership.

The complaint also maintains that the new law, as well as a recent opinion from the FEC, requires the Media Fund to register as a federal political committee and abide by fund-raising restrictions, which limit individual contributions to no more than $5,000. (How it works: A look at '527s')

Any ad that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" a candidate for federal office has to be funded with those limited "hard" money contributions, the complaint says.

A spokeswoman for the Media Fund, Sarah Leonard, called the charge that the ads are illegally funded "ridiculous" and said it was an effort "to silence the voices of progressives in the grass roots across the country."

"The Bush campaign is simply trying to scare our donors," she said, noting that the president's campaign is not complaining about similar ads being run by conservative groups attacking Kerry. "This is just politics, not surprising in an election year, and should not be taken any more seriously than that."

The Media Fund will spend $5.1 million to run the ad for two weeks, starting Wednesday, in 17 battleground states, Leonard said.

The group has not released the content of the ad. But the Bush campaign's complaint says the spot says Bush's "priorities are eroding the American dream" and that "it's time to take our country back from corporate greed and make America work for every American."

On Friday, the Republican National Committee sent a letter to TV stations around the country, warning them that another group working for Bush's defeat, the Voter Fund, was funding a similar ad by with illegal soft money. The RNC asked the stations to stop running the ads.

Both MoveOn and the Media Fund have received contributions from controversial billionaire financier George Soros, a Hungarian immigrant who has said ousting Bush this year is now the "central focus of my life."

Republicans have charged that Soros and other wealthy liberal donors are trying to circumvent the new campaign finance law -- which Kerry and most Democrats in Congress supported -- to help Kerry compete against the president's fund-raising advantage.

Like the Media Fund, the Voter Fund maintains the ads are financed legally.

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