Going After Liberals And Your Funny Bone

Club for Growth wraps serious messages in humorous spots

The Club for Growth delights in tripping up any candidate it deems too liberal—Republicans included.

Launched in 1999 by economic conservatives who want more “pro-growth Reaganites” in Congress, the group deals primarily in attack ads to weaken candidates it opposes. In 2002, the group said, 17 of the 19 candidates it attacked with ads lost their races. This year the group plans to spend $5 million, which it raised from 12,000 members.

Its opening salvo, an anti-Howard Dean spot, aired in Iowa. In it, a man says, “I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading …” His wife continues, “… body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.”

“Humor is often a good way to get a hard-hitting political message across,” said Jon Lerner, a principal at Red Sea LLC in Washington, the political consulting firm that does Club for Growth’s ads.

The next spot will target Sen. John Kerry, said the group’s president, Stephen Moore. Neither the concept nor the media schedule are set. Another ad will air in South Dakota and attack Senate minority leader Tom Daschle as “anti-family, anti-farmer and anti-American,” Moore said. When Daschle bought a house in Washington last year, the group spoofed the Crosby Stills Nash & Young tune “Our House” in an ad that included the line, “Tom’s house, is a very, very, very big house.”

Another spot will attack Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. Club for Growth is backing Specter’s opponent, Pat Toomey, in that Republican primary.

Moore said it rankles the GOP that a conservative group would take aim at seated Republicans. Republican National Committee rep Christine Iverson said, “There are many groups in our political process with strong views, and it is their prerogative to express those views.”