Labor unions, Republican Party organizations, bus-iness and environmental groups all have increased ad spending as they try to keep or alter the makeup of what will be the 105th Congress.
"This was the first time in 40 years that we had a pro-business Congress," said Joe Davis, a spokes-man for a business group called the Coalition: Americans Working for Real Change. It includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.
Mr. Davis made it clear his group's goal is to keep that tilt. The coalition was active in 30 congressional districts at press time and was expanding its efforts as it raised funds from business.
So far, the group has spent $4.5 million on advertising that accuses labor unions of lying. The coalition's ads are coming from National Media, Alexandria, Va., and Gannon McCarthy, Washington.
"We saw labor unions misrepresenting the truth, and we are correcting the record," Mr. Davis said.
What's fueling that anger is a massive drive to retake at least the House of Representatives for the Democrats, and an aggressive campaign by the AFL-CIO.
UNION'S MEDIA AT $20 MIL
The union organization acknowledged that it will spend $35 million in local congressional districts this year, $20 million of that on media advertising.
"It is directed at our members to help them understand the voting records of their congressmen, to hold members accountable," Norm Kurz, spokesman for the AFL-CIO's Labor '96 effort, said of the 30-second spots from Axelrod & Associates, Chicago; Shrum, Devine & Donilon, Washington; and Sol Shorr Advertising, Phila-delphia.
In the latest set of commercials, jointly produced by the shops, Republican congressmen are taken to task for votes on education and pensions.
"What's important to America's families?. . .Education. . .And where do the candidates stand? [The Democrat] opposes cuts in college loans. . . Congressman [the Republican] voted to cut college loans by $10 billion," says one of the TV commercials.
Earlier spots focused on Medicare and the minimum wage. The AFL-CIO said TV or radio spots are airing on 170 stations in 24 districts, and in many areas they have been airing for months.
Republicans claim the AFL-CIO spending in several of the districts has dwarfed traditional ad spending from
the congressional candidates, with spending in one district in Arizona and in Seattle districts topping $1 million.
OTHERS JOIN IN
In several districts, the AFL-CIO campaign has been bolstered by additional advertising from Citizens Action, a consumer group; from the Sierra Club; and from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Citizens Action, which opposed some Democrats two years ago because of healthcare proposals, is spending $1.5 million this year against some Republicans the group claims have supported Medi-care cuts and attempts to cutback environment protection.
Much of the group's advertising has been radio, though a TV spot has been produced, via MCSSR, Tacoma Park, Md.
SIERRA CLUB SPENDS $80,000
The Sierra Club has worked with a second environmental group to run advertising in several districts, most strongly in Michigan and California. The groups have spent $80,000 so far on the effort, with MCSSR also handling that campaign.
It is the AFL-CIO campaign, however, that the business groups and Republicans have reacted to by launching their own campaigns.
The AFL-CIO's ads have deeply angered Republicans, who claim the union organization has actually spent $40 million on media.
Last week, the Republican National Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee accused the AFL-CIO of flouting the intent of campaign financing limits by claiming the ads were "educational" rather than political advertising.
Republicans went to U.S. District Court in Washington to force the Federal Election Commission to act against the union ad spending, in the meantime launching a major ad blitz to counter the unions' campaign.
"The big labor bosses in Washington are spending big money spreading big lies to buy their control of Congress," says one TV spot airing in a major buy from Sipple Communications, Washington.
WORRIED ABOUT CONGRESS
Republicans claim the heavier advertising isn't so much due to Mr. Dole's poor showing in the polls but rather concern about who will win Congress.
The union advertising "is not generic advertising," said Haley Barbour, Republican National Committee chairman. "They attack the Republican candidate by name. If we were 40 points ahead, we would still be doing this."