MoveOn.org rolls out new 'red-handed' ads

MoveOn.org’s PAC continues to hammer away at four Republican lawmakers with a $1.3 million television advertising campaign to link them to unpopular big-money interests.

Earlier this month, MoveOn ran TV ads tying GOP Reps. Deborah Pryce (Ohio), Nancy Johnson (Conn.), Chris Chocola (Ind.) and Thelma Drake (Va.) to four of liberals’ favorite targets: Vice President Cheney, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the oil industry. In a campaign scheduled to roll out today, MoveOn adds another foil: the pharmaceutical industry.

The new spots draw a connection between the lawmakers’ support for the controversial Medicare prescription-drug benefit and campaign contributions from drug companies. “Another Republican caught red-handed” is the tag line; the lawmaker’s hand is illustrated as turning red.

Johnson is an author of the Medicare bill. Her opponent, state Sen. Chris Murphy (D), has made criticism of the drug benefit one of his campaign’s most prominent themes.

Johnson’s campaign called on Murphy to repudiate MoveOn’s ads, as it did during the first round.

“MoveOn is parroting Murphy’s attacks and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads so misleading [that] television stations have refused to run them,” said Brian Flaherty, the co-chairman of Johnson’s campaign. Murphy has denied working with MoveOn.

NBC-owned stations in Hartford, Conn., and Columbus, Ohio, refused to air the oil ads. MoveOn did not try to buy time on those stations for the new ads, a spokeswoman said.

Pryce’s campaign took a similar tack.

“We are disappointed that these scurrilous ads are beginning again [and] surprised that [Democratic opponent] Mary Jo Kilroy has done nothing to put an end to her supporters’ attempts to mischaracterize the congresswoman’s record,” said Pryce’s campaign manager, Jeff La Rue. The drug benefit is “wildly successful,” La Rue added.