Interest Groups Plan Barrage Of Attack Ads, Mailings in Iowa

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The upbeat pre-Christmas tone of the 2008 presidential campaign is about to shift.

While a frenzy of campaign activity in Iowa by labor unions and other special interest groups began earlier this month, with advertising carrying more or less positive messages about the candidates, federal election reports show that several groups not officially affiliated with the contenders are ready to launch attack ads and mailers across the state.

Over the weekend, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed documents with the Federal Election Commission reporting that it will spend $40,755 on a mailing opposing Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). AFSCME is one of three major groups that have been active in Iowa promoting the candidacy of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Another group, a political action committee called Democratic Courage, run by a supporter of former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.), has reported that it will spend about $20,000 on a television ad opposing Clinton. Earlier this year, the group announced plans to run "hard-hitting, creative ads in key primary states highlighting why Sen. Clinton should not be the first choice of voters who want to end the war in Iraq, fight global warming, win universal health care -- or beat the Republicans."

The group, which has specialized in producing low-cost ads designed to attract media attention, has also placed a video critical of Obama on its Web site. In that ad, "Santa Barack Obama" is shown delivering lumps of coal to Iowa voters in the form of votes he cast that were opposed by the PAC.

Two conservative groups also got into the act yesterday, announcing that they will be financing advertising campaigns in the week before the Jan. 3 caucuses.

Yesterday, a political action committee affiliated with Republican Alan Keyes declared its intention to spend $39,000 on phone banks and mailers opposing Clinton. And a PAC called, which describes itself on its Web site as a conservative group that targets liberal Republicans and Democrats for defeat, reported yesterday that it will spend $16,465 on mail opposing Clinton.

Within 20 days of an election, the FEC requires independent groups to file reports anytime they spend more than $1,000 to either support or oppose a specific candidate.

The only other papers filed with the FEC over the weekend were for mailers promoting Democrat Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico. Whether they help Richardson's campaign, though, will depend on what the Democrats who receive them think of the group that footed the $9,000 bill: the National Rifle Association.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company