Democratic attack ads against GOP House candidates who support a 23 percent national sales tax are causing a stir in several states, with Republicans demanding that TV stations drop them.
The ads, running in seven House districts, target Republicans who support HR 25. The bill would eliminate the federal income tax, estate tax and payroll taxes and replace them with a 23 percent sales tax. The issue has been a mainstay in the Senate race in South Carolina, but the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's ads have expanded it to three House districts in Texas and one each in Georgia, Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina.
The Republican in each race, the ad says, supports tax breaks for the rich while average folks would get "a new big tax on every clothes purchase, our food, our cars and trucks, even our homes."
The bill's chief sponsor cried foul in a letter to WRDW-TV in Augusta, Ga., where the target is freshman Rep. Max Burns (R-Ga.). Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.) wrote that the DCCC attack falsely implies that the tax burden for most Americans would increase under his bill. "This is a replacement tax, not a new tax," Linder wrote, calling his proposal "revenue neutral."
Burns's campaign said yesterday that the station had dropped the ad. But WRDW's president said the station merely substituted it for another ad, also on the sales tax issue, at the DCCC's request.
Sen. Bond Pulls Ahead in Polls
Democrats' once-high hopes of unseating Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) have faded as Bond -- fortified by the advantages of incumbency -- amassed a strong, steady lead over state Treasurer Nancy Farmer in pre-election polls.
Bond has a habit of running close races, leading Democrats to put him on their target list every time he runs. But, in his 18 years in the Senate, he has attained positions -- including chairmanship of an important appropriations subcommittee and the subcommittee with jurisdiction over transportation projects -- that have funneled millions of dollars into Missouri, including a huge increase for the state in the pending highway bill. Farmer has stressed job creation and presented herself as more concerned about working people.
Bond will outspend Farmer by about 3 to 1, but Farmer's campaign notes that she is nearly always outspent by opponents she has defeated. A recent poll for two Missouri television stations showed Bond with a 56 to 38 lead over Farmer, but Farmer aides say the gap is closing as the election nears.
Campaign Ads Get Animated
The video is shocking, even in this year's presidential campaign. It features images of dead Iraqi children, U.S. soldiers abusing inmates at Abu Ghraib prison -- and President Bush, whom it labels a terrorist, murderer and fascist.
It was not created by Democrat John F. Kerry's campaign. Or some outside Democratic-leaning group. It was created by Eric Blumrich, 34, a shaggy-haired animator from New Jersey. Incensed by the war in Iraq and the news media's coverage of it, he said he created the six-minute Internet video to publicize his personal views on the war.
He is one of a growing number of people, using home computers and relatively cheap software, who have released scores of politically charged videos that, through word of mouth, are finding their way into thousands, if not millions, of homes.
Their work has been largely invisible to the casual Internet user, though, until now. The Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University has created what appears to be the first archive of the videos. The exhibit, available at www.ipdi.org/videolibrary, includes more than 100 examples. About half were produced by the presidential campaigns, national parties and other political groups. The remainder were created by people such as Blumrich.
The videos are typically several minutes long, animated, and take the sort of creative license rarely found in conventional political ads. There is one, for example, that parodies "Star Trek," depicting Bush as the captain of the USS Enron's Prize ("to boldly drill where no man has drilled before"). Another features Kerry and his animated Kerryettes, singing a jingle that makes gratuitous references to his Vietnam War service. There is also one of the popular "JibJab" cartoons, one of the few videos that mock both candidates.
Others are much more dishonest and contemptuous in tone. One says Kerry "denounces the efforts of our soldiers in Iraq" and "supports the terrorist thugs." Then there is Blumrich's oeuvre, which includes videos tagging Bush with an expletive and suggesting that he plans to announce Osama bin Laden's capture before the election.
"In lowering the barriers to politics, which the Internet has done, the barbarians that you're letting in -- you've got good ones and bad ones," said Carol C. Darr, director of the institute. "We've been talking about the good for most of the last year, about opening up small donors, and more people are participating. . . . But you've got some bad coming in too." She added, "We keep finding new ones every day."
Staff writer Helen Dewar contributed to this report.