LIBERAL GROUP AD EFFORT USES 'CAMPAIGN-STYLE TACTICS'

Plans to Spend $10-$15 Million to Target GOP Programs

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -– A year after helping to defeat Social Security restructuring, liberal group Americans United is returning to the public policy front with a $1 million push for lobbying reform -- and it is planning for a $10 million to $15 million effort to target other administration programs.

In a new cable TV campaign, the group formerly known as Americans United to Protect Social Security urges congress to rein in lobbying. “What time is it in America ... when oil company lobbyists sit at the White House helping write their own tax breaks ... when you stand at the gas pump paying $40 to fill your tank ... when Republican leaders are indicted for money laundering, bribery and obstruction of justice?” asks the spot from GMMB, Washington. “What time is it when the president gives away billions to drug companies while cutting health care for seniors? Time for a change.”

Lobbying scandals
The move comes as Democratic groups look to seize on the recent corruption and bribery scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff to try to win back control of Congress. Speaking at a press conference to announce the new campaign today, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said the public’s concern about corruption and lobbying is at a high point. He also said the traditional voter disconnect between Washington and local officials -- best summed up as Washington is corrupt but my congressman is fine -- is breaking down as more citizens blame their local officials for what ails the Beltway.

The 60-second ad, which is due to get heavy play around President Bush’s State of the Union speech next week, urges support for the Democrats’ lobbyist reform effort, titled the “Honest Leadership Act.” Officials of the Americans United said the ad is part of an effort to repeat the Social Security success by combining advertising and grassroots activities at the local level.

“We will bring campaign-style tactics to up to 35 states,” said Karen Olick, the group’s executive director. During the Social Security fight one of the group’s tactics was to follow around President Bush and administration spokesmen, holding counter events whenever the administration talked up Social Security reform.

'Moral issue'
“We kicked butt [on Social Security]. We are going to kick butt again,” said Brad Woodhouse, a campaign spokesman. “We turned Social Security into a moral issue of right and wrong and this campaign will adopt the same tactics. We will not let the other side’s claims go unchallenged.”

Officials of the group said the lobbying push will be followed by other campaigns such as health reform. Americans United has drawn backing from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and House and Senate Democratic leaders.

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