"McSame" ad launched at McCain

March 5, 2008 6:27:16 PM PST
A Democratic-leaning group financed by a major labor union and wealthy liberal activists is running ads against Sen. John McCain in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the beginning of a media campaign against the GOP nominee-in-waiting. Called "McSame," the ad portrays McCain and President Bush as interchangeable on key issues such as Iraq, tax cuts and health care.

The ad is the work of the Campaign to Defend America, a nonprofit organization that is among anti-war and left-of-center groups that have pledged a multimillion-dollar effort to target McCain and congressional Republicans on the consequences of the Iraq war on the U.S. economy.

The group has pledged to spend more than $1 million on the current ad campaign, which is to extend to other states. The group is buying relatively modest amounts of time compared to what presidential candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton are spending.

According to records filed with the Federal Election Commission last week, the group planned to spend only about $140,000 on the ad in Ohio.

The ads come just as McCain clinches the Republican presidential nomination. McCain is now free to aim his campaign at Obama and Clinton while the two Democrats preoccupy themselves trying to secure their party's nomination.

Republican-leaning groups also are expected to mount similar campaigns against the eventual Democratic nominee.

The anti-McCain ad's message echoes a theme Democrats have been developing against McCain - trying to link him as closely to Bush's policies as they can.

"A trillion dollars in Iraq over the next ten years, McSame as Bush," an announcer in the ad says. "A millionaire who's for tax cuts for millionaires. McSame as Bush. Oil companies? They get tax breaks while we pay at the pump. McSame as Bush. Absolutely no plan for universal health care. McSame as Bush. Tell John McCain we need a new direction. Not the McSame old thing."

While McCain criticized the initial conduct of the war, he has been one of Bush's biggest supporters of the troop escalation that began last year. He also voted against Bush's tax cuts, but has since said he would press for making them permanent.

The trillion dollar figure comes from a Congressional Budget Office report last year that estimated the 10-year cost for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the war on terrorism, not simply Iraq.

According to FEC reports and filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the Campaign to Defend America has received at least $1.4 million from the Fund for America, a nonprofit group set up last year by John Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Clinton; Anna Burger, the secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union; and Rob McKay, a California philanthropist. The Campaign to Defend America is headed by Tom Matzzie, the former Washington director of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org.

Among Fund for America donors are multimillionaire financier George Soros, who gave it $2.5 million last year and was a major contributor to an effort to defeat Bush in 2004. Burger's union also contributed $2.5 million last year, according to Fund for America's IRS records.

"These groups spent tens of millions of dollars in 2004 against President Bush and he won re-election," McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said. "It didn't work then and it won't work now."