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Liberal Group's Ads Reflect Anti-Impeachment Theme


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Coalition of Activists to Air TV Ads on Clinton's Behalf (Washington Post, Sept. )

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 7, 1998; Page A12

The White House argument that there is no need for House impeachment hearings got a televised boost yesterday from People for the American Way.

The liberal organization launched a nearly $1 million advertising campaign to promote the message that Congress should "move on" from its impeachment inquiry and focus on real issues. While neither President Clinton nor impeachment is mentioned, the message clearly echoes the administration line.

The group's president, Carole Shields, appearing with her 4-year-old grandson, says in the ad: "Let's move on. That's what the American people are saying loud and clear. But some in Washington are listening to the religious right -- not the people. . . . It's time to get back to what really counts. First-rate schools, Medicare and Social Security. . . . We have a voice and a vote. November 3 is Election Day. Let's tell them it's time to move on."

The ad is airing nationally on CNN, beginning last night on "Larry King Live," and on local stations in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Miami and other markets.

Nancy Coleman, a People for the American Way spokeswoman, said the spot was not aimed solely at boosting Democratic turnout. "This message will resonate, yes, with progressive and Democratic voters, but also with some Republican voters who may be more moderate than the religious right," she said.

But her group is more explicit in fliers being distributed here and around the country. The leaflet pictures Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and television evangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

"They spent $40 million and unearthed nothing but intimate details about the president's private life," it says. "Now they want to waste next year on an impeachment inquiry. Sure, 70 percent of Americans don't want impeachment. But Helms and his buddies are counting on the scandal-mongering in Washington to drive down voter turnout and hand them an unstoppable majority."

Gary L. Bauer, president of the conservative group American Renewal, accused three of Washington's network affiliates -- WRC, WJLA and WUSA -- of a double standard for accepting the ads. The three stations last month rejected his commercial, which has run in other markets, urging Clinton to resign. "It seems to me clearly unacceptable for them to accept ads on one side of this issue and not the other," Bauer said. "I immediately think of ideological bias."

WRC says it has decided not to run the People for the American Way ad. Spokesmen for WJLA and WUSA did not return calls. The spot is also running on WTTG.

Democratic interest groups, including the AFL-CIO, dropped plans to mount a television campaign on Clinton's behalf last week after Democrats complained it would siphon off money needed by their candidates.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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