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MoveOn Unmoved By Furor Over Ad Targeting Petraeus

This is not MoveOn's first controversy. In 2004, when the group held a contest on its site for the best ads bashing Bush, they quickly took down one that compared the president to Hitler. Later, Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic presidential candidate, distanced himself from an ad that criticized Bush's National Guard service.

Founded as an online petition by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs in 1998 to encourage Congress to "move on" from trying to impeach President Clinton, the group is in many ways the brainchild of Pariser.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pariser, just out of college, started a petition calling for the United States to react with "moderation." This comment later drew criticism from conservatives but won him a large following that inspired one of MoveOn's founders, Wes Boyd, to hire Pariser as one of the group's first full-time staff members. As executive director, Pariser runs the group out of his home in New York. MoveOn's employees rarely meet in person, instead communicating by e-mail or conference call.

In 2004, MoveOn spent millions from wealthy donors such as financier George Soros, but it has grown into a force that has raised millions in donations from members and pumped more than $6 million into ads in this election cycle alone.

MoveOn and other antiwar groups have largely succeeded in helping to push Democrats to support a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. The group has backed such a plan for more than a year, but this was a step many Democrats had been reluctant to take. But, like some Democrats, the group has been frustrated as Republicans have continued to embrace Bush's policy on the war.

Yesterday, almost two weeks after the ad ran, MoveOn found itself in an unenviable position: almost universally condemned by Senate Democrats and Republicans.

Once Republicans started circulating an amendment that would blast MoveOn for "impugning the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all the members of the U.S. Armed Forces," Democrats wrote their own version that criticized the MoveOn ad but also denounced Republicans for attacking the military record of Kerry in 2004 through the Swift boat ads.

Between the two measures, nearly every member of the Senate had repudiated MoveOn, including Democratic presidential contender Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Obama, who both voted for the Democratic version that did not include MoveOn's name but said there had been an "unwarranted personal attack" on Petraeus.


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