Monday, October 1, 2007

Capitol Hill Republicans are getting a much-needed fundraising boost from a newspaper advertisement in which the liberal group accused Iraq war commander Gen. David H. Petraeus of lying, strategists say.

Republican candidates and party committees are frequently citing the ad in fundraising solicitations and campaign materials to attack Democratic opponents for not condemning the ad, which was published in the New York Times three weeks ago today.

While it’s too early to tell how much money Republicans have raised using the tactic, party spokesmen say it has been an effective fundraising tool.

“The [MoveOn ad] issue is very hot with our base right now,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher. “We are using the controversy to reinforce our message that the Democrats in the Senate are beholden to the liberal wing of the party — and this is a perfect example of [their] pandering to the extreme wing.”

The NRSC used the ad in a recent e-mail fundraising pitch, and has circulated an online petition to supporters asking Congressional Democrats to return any contributions they’ve received from MoveOn. The NRSC also has posted an ad on YouTube accusing Democrats of being beholden to group.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the fundraising arm for House Republicans, has criticized several House Democrats for receiving MoveOn donations and for voting against a resolution last week to condemn the ad.

While the tactic isn’t expected to reverse the Democrats strong fundraising advantage over Republicans for 2008 House races, the MoveOn ad has provided the chamber’s Republicans an easy political target.

“Not only has the MoveOn debacle confirmed the American public’s suspicion that Democrats, since the 1960s, remain beholden to the far-left fringe of their party’s base, but it also speaks to the more current problem that Democrats face, which is their inability to act decisively on any measure,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said.

Republican strategists say Democrats who denounce the ad risk being alienated from MoveOn, which has contributed significantly to the party in recent years.

“Democrats have been effectively boxed into a corner,” said a GOP strategist. “They’re being hit doubly hard by the far left, which is upset that they’re not standing up to Republican criticisms over the ad.”

The Republican National Committee has also used the ad in a recent e-mail to supporters.

The full-page MoveOn ad featured a photo of the general and the headline “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?” It was published Sept. 10, the day Gen. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker were scheduled to start two days of testimony to Congress on the progress of the Iraq war.

It accused Gen. Petraeus of “cooking the books” on the war.

MoveOn paid $65,000, about $75,000 less than the New York Times’ “open rate” for an ad of that type and size.

Republicans said the discount was an illegal in-kind political contribution. The Times said the advertising rate was similar to those for other advocacy ads, although that lower rate is supposed to apply only to ads without a specific “must-run” date and Times policies forbid personal attacks in any ad.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, who faces re-election next year, blasted the ad in an e-mail to supporters last month seeking campaign contributions.

The ad “makes me wonder how our children and other nations will look to us for inspiration and courage,” Mr. Cornyn said in the letter, which was distributed by Texans for Senator John Cornyn.

The Republican tactic, however, has benefited at least one Democrat. The Star Tribune of Minneapolis announced last week it was refunding about $12,000 to the campaign of Al Franken, a Democrat trying to unseat Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, after undercharging Mr. Coleman for a full-page ad.

The Star Tribune said it charged Mr. Coleman about $20,000 for an ad Tuesday that criticized Mr. Franken for not condemning the MoveOn ad. Two months ago, the newspaper charged Mr. Franken about $32,000 for a full-page ad criticizing Mr. Coleman’s record on the Iraq war.

The Star Tribune said a new sales representative had quoted the Coleman campaign an incorrect rate.

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