The Grand Old Party has declared war on MoveOn.org’s Voter Fund’s television ads critical of President Bush, and MoveOn founder Wes Boyd is furious.
On Friday, the Republican National Committee sent letters to 250 television stations across country Friday, warning of potentially dire consequences should they air the ads from the Berkeley-based activist organization.
In the three-page letter, RNC Chief Counsel Jill Holtsman Vogel told broadcasters they “have a responsibility to the viewing public, and to your licensing agency, to refrain from complicity in any illegal activity.”
“That’s outrageous,” Boyd said Monday. “They’re lying. We’re operating under the law. But this is getting to be a standard tactic of the RNC to silence opposition.”
The GOP letter doesn’t seem to have had the intended effect. Boyd said he talked to MoveOn’s media buyer Monday afternoon, and not one station had bumped the group’s commercials.
MoveOn launched the ad campaign Thursday, buying $1.9 million in broadcasting time in 67 media markets in 17 states. The ads highlight worker job insecurity and White House plans to eliminate overtime pay for eight million jobs. The group responded to the RNC letter by announcing plans to add another $1 million in advertising buys to the campaign.
The Republicans claim the ads are illegal because they are funded in part by a seven-figure donation from George Soros, while the law limits such ads to funding by contributors who give $5,000 or less.
Because the ad “clearly attacks and opposes President Bush. . .and is being broadcast in states commonly considered crucial to the outcome” of the November election, Holtzman wrote, “the MoveOn.org Voter cannot use soft money” for the ad “and must register with the Federal Election Commission.”
The letter concluded with an ominous last line: “Now that you have been apprised of the law to prevent future violations of federal law, we urge you to remove these advertisements from your station’s broadcast rotation.”
But Joseph Sandler, MoveOn.org’s own lawyer, sent a letter of his own to broadcasters, charging that the missive was part of “the RNC’s cynical and dishonest efforts to silence the voices of citizens who dare to criticize the president. . .and to intimidate broadcasters into complicity with that indefensible attempt at censorship.”
Sandler said MoveOn.org’s ads “are entirely lawful under the federal campaign finance laws.”
Broadcasters are walking on eggs recently, in light of the recent Clear Channel purge of shock jock Howard Stern after he turned against the president and the outburst of conservative rage following Justin Timberlake’s bearing of Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.
One thing Super Bowl viewers didn’t see on CBS was a MoveOn ad the network refused to air, saying they wouldn’t run advocacy ads during the biggest game on the American broadcasting calendar. CBS also killed an ad from the animal rights group PETA on the same grounds. But CBS did air another advocacy ad during the show, a product of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.