- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2004

CBS is no longer airing the Bush administration’s television ad that explains the new Medicare prescription drug law — a move some Republicans charge is politically motivated.

The 30-second publicly-funded commercial, which tells seniors they will have their same Medicare plan only with more benefits, has prompted loud criticism from Democrats who say it is a misleading, taxpayer-funded ad angled for Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign.

The General Accounting Office, the auditing firm for Congress, is looking into these charges and several lawmakers have been urging the networks to stop running the ads until the GAO investigation is complete.

“As soon as we became aware of the investigation, we pulled it,” CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said yesterday, adding that the network stopped airing the commercial several days ago.

But John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said CBS executive Martin Franks, who is in charge of standards and practices there, is a “partisan Democrat” who gave $59,000 to Democrats over the past 14 years, and has also given money to Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

“Obviously he’s making this decision for political reasons,” Mr. Feehery said.

Democratic lawmakers were happy with the decision to yank the ad, however.

“CBS has finally done the responsible thing,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has said he will withdraw the commercial if GAO determines it is political, but vigorously defended its content, saying he is clearly authorized to explain the new law to seniors.

c This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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