Interest groups ramp up 'fiscal cliff' advertising campaigns

Just as television audiences were beginning to enjoy a post-election respite from the political commercials that dominated the months preceding November's presidential election, groups on both sides of the looming "fiscal cliff" negotiations are priming a new flood of advertisements. 

Thanksgiving weekend marked the unofficial kickoff for new interest group ad campaigns urging voters to lobby their members of Congress over the outcome automatic triggers that would raise tax rates across the board and impose severe domestic and defense budget cuts.

Labor unions and seniors groups are particularly active, pushing President Obama and congressional Democrats to refuse a debt deal that would cut benefits for entitlement programs.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association told CNN earlier this week that they are spending $300,000 on an initial ad campaign that advocates a solution that would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. 

The radio, print, and television advertisements will target Democratic Sens. Michael BennetMichael BennetCruz: Precedent exists for keeping Supreme Court short-staffed Senate poll raises Republican hopes in Pennsylvania, Florida Podesta floated Bill Gates, Bloomberg as possible Clinton VPs MORE and Mark UdallMark UdallColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Energy issues roil race for Senate Unable to ban Internet gambling, lawmakers try for moratorium MORE in Colorado, Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerMaybe you should 'throw your vote away' on a third party or write-in The most important question in 2017: how do we get to yes? Dem asks FCC to review internet security rules after massive cyberattack MORE in Virginia and Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillMcCaskill offers Trump 'Mean Girls' advice Trump's taxes bump Miss Universe from headlines Dem on NYT report: Trump 'walks away with a golden ticket' MORE in Missouri, along with assorted House Democrats, telling supporters to lobby the members to hold firm on the debt deal negotiations.

"There's a debate going on in Washington about the best way to move the country forward and reduce the deficit. But there's one thing that both parties can agree on: We shouldn't raise taxes on the middle class. But if Congress fails to act soon, that's exactly what will happen," says the narrator in the radio ad.

"Middle class families can't afford that. And our economy can't afford that, either," the narrator continues. "Congress should act quickly to preserve the middle class tax cuts. And that will take leaders willing to put people ahead of partisan politics."

The American Association of Retired Persons has also begun airing ads in Washington, D.C., that ask lawmakers to preserve and strengthen programs like Medicare and Social Security. Those ads feature imagery of seniors discussing medications with their pharmacists.

"Raiding Medicare and Social Security to pay for other government programs is shortsighted and harmful to seniors and their kids and grandkids," said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond to The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, business groups are also advocating a solution to the looming issue, albeit without the same emphasis on preserving social programs.

The Business Roundtable (BRT) is using member CEOs to push for a temporary extension of the Bush-era tax cuts while a long-term solution is sought. In a print, radio, and internet campaign dubbed "It's Time to Act," BRT executives argue that the uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff is stifling job growth.

“The inaction from Washington on a range of key fiscal and tax policies represents an irresponsible abdication of duty,” said BRT President John Engler. “To improve our economy, which is still struggling to rebound, Congress and the administration must address the immediate threats to U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. It’s time for Washington to act.”

And a group headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson — co-chairs of President Obama's debt-reduction committee — has launched an ad campaign of its own, playing off popular product advertisements while advocating that lawmakers strike a grand bargain. One ad, styled after Nike's "Just do it" campaign features a runner and the slogan "Just fix it." Another ad shows a woman with a milk mustache and the tagline, "Got debt?"

Vicki Needham contributed to the reporting of this article.