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Independent Groups Ramp Up Ads

By Matthew Mosk
Independent groups continued to pour money into the presidential contest this week, with two new negative ads emerging today focused on a topic of great interest to voters this year: health care.

One of the commercials is being produced by the American Leadership Project -- a 527 group set up by large donors to Sen. Hillary Clinton. This ad, airing in Indiana, targets rival Democrat Barack Obama for "leaving as many as 15 million Americans uncovered."

The second is being aired by the political arm of the Obama-aligned Service Employees International Union. That ad, airing in Ohio and the District, targets Republican Sen. John McCain. "Like President Bush, John McCain won't stop rising health care costs," the ad says.

Fred Wertheimer, head of the campaign finance advocacy group Democracy 21, said the current paralysis at the Federal Election Commission is giving independent groups "a free ride right now," even though many ads appear to be stretching the limits of the campaign finance laws.

"There is a sense that it's the law of the jungle right now -- the wild west," Wertheimer said. "It's a free time."

The FEC's inaction is the result of a Senate stalemate over President Bush's appointments to the commission. Only two of the six chairs at the FEC are occupied right now, and the commission can take no action without at least four seats filled.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to the White House today urging the president to broker a deal that would resolve the stalemate and bring the FEC back to full strength. In the letter, Reid urges White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten to no longer "settle for the fiction of a commission."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 29, 2008; 6:52 PM ET
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