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Another wave of TV attack ads coming

Republicans plan $37 million blitz

By Brooks Jackson/CNN

WASHINGTON (September 24) -- Here we go again. Voters will see another election-year wave of unregulated attack ads, this time from Republicans.

"We're going to spend all we can get, and our projected budget is $37 million above and beyond the money we're raising right now for candidates," says Rep. John Linder, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

Two years ago the AFL-CIO spent $22 million on ads attacking Republicans.

Linder
Rep. John Linder  

This year it's the Republican party attacking Democrats with even more money, including $440,000 so far against just one of the Democrats' most promising House candidates, Brian Baird, in Washington state's 3rd district.

And so far, there have been no ads in response from Baird.

"This is a tremendous distraction," Baird said. "It's a distortion and it's an insult to the process."

Republicans say their ad blitz is "aimed at putting the GOP on offense." They call it "Operation Breakout."

Democrats have another name. "We prefer to refer to this as Operation Backfire," says Rep. Martin Frost, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But that may be wishful thinking. Democrats called one ad attacking Baird on criminal justice issues deceptive, but could not keep it off the air.

The ad said, "Brian Baird doesn't support truth in sentencing. And that could mean a return to early parole."

Frost
Rep. Martin Frost  

In fact, Baird does oppose rigid sentencing laws. "We should allow discretion, not leniency, not some kind of softness on crime," he says.

The GOP ads are groping for a coherent national theme. In Nevada, the issue is honesty. One spot attacks Nevada House Democratic candidate Shelley Berkley for comments she allegedly made about doing business in Las Vegas.

An NRCC ad says, "Call Shelley Berkley. Tell her the truth is important."

In the latest -- a positive ad -- the issue is something called "Ohio Values"

It says, "Lieutenant governor Nancy Hollister shares our values." Hollister is running in Ohio's 6th congressional district.

But no ads mention President Bill Clinton's troubles directly. Republicans fear that could backfire. And they've agreed with Democrats to no first strikes on candidates' personal lives.

Democrats cannot match the Republicans' money but are getting help from the AFL-CIO. This week, TV and radio ads began running in the districts of 18 House Republicans.

One ad highlights the issue of what to do with the federal budget surplus. "Now the Republican Congress wants to spend this Social Security surplus on an eighty billion dollar election-year tax cut..."

All the ads get around the campaign finance laws by not urging voters to cast a ballot, not directly.

Two years ago the AFL-CIO's ads failed to return the House to Democratic control. This year, Republicans started first and will spend much more -- as if Democrats didn't already have enough to worry about.


RELATED SITES

National Republican Congressional Committee Web site

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Web site


MORE STORIES:

Wednesday, September 23, 1998

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