The White House is masterminding a partywide campaign to advertise the benefits of rebates being mailed to taxpayers with an emphasis on the benefactor responsible for them — President Bush.
“We are branding this tax cut with the Bush brand,” a senior Republican official confided yesterday.
Republicans, who often call themselves the “stupid party” when it comes to self-promotion, appear determined to cash in on the rebates under the leadership of Team Bush.
Team Bush has urged party officials such as Washington state party Chairman Chris Vance to show the rebates’ benefits to “real people” in press releases to local media. Mr. Vance’s release said a rebate of up to $600 can buy 21/2 months of groceries, 40 packs of diapers, 12 nights out at the movies for a family of four, a year of cell phone service, 150 video rentals or 40 Seattle Mariners baseball tickets.
“Just as our team helped educate Washington about the need for a tax cut in the first place, we are also working to help make sure that folks understand the importance of this tax cut,” White House Political Director Ken Mehlman said yesterday.
Republicans say touting the tax rebates with this degree of organization — down to the mayoral and city council levels — exceeds anything the party has managed before, even for President Reagan’s tax cuts.
“To compare the Republicans’ public relations on the Reagan tax cuts of 20 years ago with what this White House is doing today is like saying a bluebird is a Concorde because they both have wings,” said Republican media consultant Craig Shirley. Mr. Shirley worked for the Republican National Committee when the 1981 tax cut was enacted.
The Bush political operation is coordinating the campaign with everyone from the Republican National Committee to the Republican governors and lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures.
Aides said RNC Chairman James S. Gilmore III last night sent an e-mail message to nearly 1 million grass-roots activists across the country that said, in part:
“Now is the time to let the newspapers in your area know what you are going to do with your tax refund by writing a letter to the editor. Contact information for your local paper can be found on our GOP team leader site www.gopteamleader.com.”
The RNC also will send its first batch of 10,000 bumper stickers emblazoned with the message “Thank me for your tax refund — I voted for Bush” to its 50 state parties this week.
Until the end of September, when the last of the U.S. Treasury’s tax-refund checks reach taxpayers’ mailboxes, Republican leaders will tout the tax cuts under the theme “a promise made, a promise kept.”
On Tuesday, Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland, the vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, linked the tax rebates to another popular issue — deadbeat dads. The state will garnish rebate checks from at least 18,000 taxpayers who have dodged court-ordered child support. The money will be given to the families owed the support.
Last week, Mr. Mehlman exchanged ideas for promoting the tax cut in a conference call with state party officials. He will talk with Republican mayors and state legislators later this week.
Meanwhile, Team Bush is:
Handing out refund-benefits message packets to congressional Republicans preparing for their August recess and suggesting ideas for local events.
Holding more conference calls with the nation’s 29 Republican governors or their chiefs of staff on how to maximize the political benefits of the Bush tax refund.
Offering and soliciting examples of how to spend the tax refund in each state, including local vacation destinations, local charities, local products to buy — such as furniture in North Carolina and state park vacations in West Virginia.
Even when the subject isn’t tax cuts, it is. At the RNC’s annual summer meeting in Boston last week, for example, the advertised theme was women’s outreach. The first words that came out of nearly every speakers’ lips referred to the “tax cuts.”
During the meeting, committee members and RNC co-Chairman Ann Wagner did “live” interviews with their local radio stations, where they all turned their talk to the Bush tax refunds.