TCS Daily

The Real Air War Has Now Started

By James K. Glassman - June 24, 2004 12:00 AM

CLICK HERE to view the latest television ads from Progress For America and to find out how you can help.

A free-market conservative organization -- called a "527 political organization" after a section in the tax code -- goes public on Friday with hard-hitting independent issue ads on television. It's about time.

The ads ask viewers to imagine how Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), the likely Democratic presidential candidate, would have reacted to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, especially considering his voting record of opposition to spending on measures to increase U.S. security.

The ads, which may provoke an uproar in the media because they show footage shot at the World Trade Center site after the attacks, contrast Kerry's likely reaction to the courage and determination shown by President Bush.

The new commercials, the work of the Progress for America Voter Fund, place conservative messages on a field that has been dominated, up until now, by the Left.

According to press reports, liberal 527s, including the Voter Fund, the Media Fund, and Americans Coming Together (ACT) have had a huge head-start, fueled in large part by the donations of one person, the billionaire George Soros, for whom defeating George W. Bush has become an obsession. Soros has given $2.5 million to MoveOn and $10 million to ACT.

Soros's spending makes a mockery of the intentions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which sought to bar large contributions. Critics of McCain-Feingold pointed out the loopholes, but the bill passed anyway, and groups backing Democrats immediately exploited it.

Through April 15, the latest reporting period, MoveOn had spent $15 million; the Media Fund, $10 million; and ACT, $11 million. MoveOn's commercials have been especially inflammatory. In January, MoveOn apologized for posting on its website two commercials that compared President Bush with Adolf Hitler.

As the election campaign began, Republicans pursued a strategy of trying to derail liberal 527 efforts while delaying the development of their own organizations. That may have been a mistake. On May 13, the Federal Election Commission refused to block 527s, "clearing the way for these organizations to exert considerable influence over this year's presidential race," as the New York Times put it.

Progress for America was founded as a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organization, which, according to its website (, "promotes nonpartisan policies that stimulate the economy, reduce tax burdens on American families and businesses, and encourage free trade."

The new Progress for America Voter Fund ( is a 527 political organization, described on its website as "a conservative issue advocacy organization dedicated to keeping the issue record straight on the campaign trail and serving as a 'Political Truth Squad.'"

The question now is whether conservative 527s can match -- and surpass -- the liberal groups that left the starting blocks long ago. Let's hope so. The excesses of Soros, especially, should be provoking conservatives to contribute. So far, he has given $15.8 million to anti-Bush groups, and there's a lot more where that came from.

But the new PFA-VF ads should go a long way toward energizing conservatives to get into the game. No longer is a presidential election simply a battle between two campaign organizations or two parties. Whether we like it or not, McCain-Feingold has unleashed independent organizations. The real battle in the air has begun.

CLICK HERE to view the latest television ads from Progress For America and to find out how you can help.


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