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Inside Politics

Ads encourage blacks to vote against Bush

• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
George Soros

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A pro-Democratic independent group announced plans to launch a hard-hitting ad campaign aimed at keeping African-American voters firmly in the Democratic camp, urging them not to "keep getting played" by President Bush's re-election campaign.

The $5 million campaign by The Media Fund is aimed at television, radio and print outlets in nine battleground states, including Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

"Republicans want you to sit out this election and simply stay home," one radio ad tells listeners. It continues, "Bush is a rich man in the White House who is sending black men and women to be slaughtered in Iraq while Cheney and Halliburton boys get rich on oil. Don't keep getting played."

And a television ad states, "Bush said prosperity was right around the corner, but he wasn't talking about the corners in your neighborhood. What are you going to do about it?"

The Media Fund is an independent "527" committee led by former Clinton administration aide Harold Ickes and backed by major Democratic donors.

Bush won less than 10 percent of the black vote in 2000. This year, he has emphasized administration economic development efforts and plans to boost home ownership in order to attract a bigger chunk of the predominantly Democratic constituency.

Republicans reacted to the new ads with a statement from former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, who called it a "shameful" scare campaign.

"President Bush has a record of expanding opportunity and home ownership for African-Americans, while working to keep all Americans safe from the threat of terrorism," said Watts, the only black Republican in Congress until he stepped down in 2002.

"I will challenge anyone to debate me on Bush's record, versus Senator Kerry's record on issues that directly impact my community, including support for historically black colleges and universities, faith-based initiatives, minority business development, and health care disparities."

The ad's backers argue that 1.1 million more African-Americans live below the poverty line today than when Bush took office, that unemployment among young black men runs higher than 30 percent and that 15 percent of factory jobs held by black voters have been lost.

"Bush has a plan for America -- but you are not part of it," one television ad states.

But Watts said Bush's Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, "has no record with the black community, and so his supporters in these shadow groups are launching more of the same unfounded, negative, and personal attacks against George W. Bush."

According to federal records compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, a campaign finance watchdog group, The Media Fund is backed largely by a coalition funded by Progressive Insurance Chairman Peter Lewis, movie producer Steven Bing and Wall Street tycoon George Soros.

Labor unions make up most of the rest of its support.

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