Bounty for b'casters: Moveon eyes more ads

WASHINGTON — Broadcasters are reaping a windfall from several liberal groups determined to topple President Bush in November. And the surge of campaign cash spent on attack ads shows no signs on letting up soon.

Grassroots activist organization Moveon.org announced plans Thursday to raise $50 million in the runup to the November election, $20 million of which the group wants to devote to TV and radio ads supporting presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry and other Democratic candidates in several key battleground states.

The group has already spent more than $7 million this year on TV spots attacking Bush and his administration’s policies and is fresh off the heels of a national bake sale dubbed “Bake Back the White House” that raked in $750,000 in one day. Group also has a so-called soft money political action committee, the Voter Fund, which has collected $8.6 million in large donations from wealthy individuals such as George Soros, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But Thursday’s goal of raising $50 million marks a shift in strategy, as MoveOn tries to persuade thousands of people to pony up smaller “hard money” contributions. The new infusion will allow the group to advocate the election or defeat of a candidate and support Kerry and others more directly in their spots.

MoveOn.org and several other groups like it, including the Media Fund and Americans Coming Together, revved up their fund-raising engines last year after new campaign finance laws prohibited political parties and candidates from raising or spending soft money — large contributions from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals. The groups formed and stepped in to try to make up for the loss and keep money directed toward electing more Democrats.

“This is our most ambitious project yet,” said Eli Pariser, exec director of MoveOn.org’s political action committee. “But we’ve never set a fundraising goal that we didn’t blow through.”

Just one hour after sending an email to the group’s 2.1 million members Thursday, Pariser reported that it had received donations or pledges of more than $1 million for the new hard-money drive.

In addition to the $20 million in ads, group plans to spend $10 million on a get-out-the-vote drive and to direct $20 million to candidates at the state and federal level, including Kerry.

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