WASHINGTON – Just about everybody wants to have their say in this presidential election.
From evangelical preachers who claim "God is not a Republican or a Democrat" to the anti-abortion Catholics Against Kerry (search), political advertising by smaller groups, and individuals in some cases, is popping up across the country.
That's on top of the millions of dollars that larger, partisan groups have spent since March to splash TV and radio commercials aimed at President Bush and John Kerry (search) across some 20 states in the White House race.
"There's going to be no letup now," predicted Evan Tracey, president of TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group, a northern Virginia company that tracks political ads.
"If you're some group with an agenda, an ax to grind or an issue to promote, now's the time," he said.
Some groups hope to influence certain constituencies. Others just want to add their 2 cents to the debate. Backers of a few have donated to Republicans or Democrats while other organizations claim no allegiance to either side.
Yet, it's obvious where most of these groups stand.
Over the past few weeks, West Virginians for Life aired a TV ad in that state praising Republican Bush as the only "pro-life" candidate in the race. Meanwhile, Save Our Environment accused him in markets in New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon and Washington of "trying to open" national forests to "logging, mining and oil companies," a salient issue in the West.
In eastern Iowa, Tom Riley, a personal injury lawyer from Cedar Rapids and a former Republican state lawmaker who recently became a Democrat, decided that donating $2,000 to Democrat Kerry's campaign wasn't enough.
With a $5,000 budget, Riley ran a newspaper ad and commercials on four radio stations saying political opponents have distorted Kerry's Vietnam war record. "Good Lord," Riley says. "The man to this day carries shrapnel in his leg."
Religious leaders involved in Sojourners, a Christian ministry with no stated political affiliation, took out full-page ads last week in newspapers in New York, Virginia and Colorado, responding to comments by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
"These leaders of the Religious Right mistakenly claim that God has taken a side in this election and that Christians should only vote for George W. Bush," the ads say, adding that "people of faith" can vote for either Bush or Kerry.
The American Defense Council, a conservative group that advocates "peace through strength," ran a radio ad for a week in Iowa, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin painting Kerry as a waffler on various issues. "The American people know where they stand. Does John Kerry know where he stands?" the ad says.
At the same time, Catholics in western Pennsylvania have been the target of a radio ad that assails Kerry for supporting "the most grisly partial-birth abortion" law and opposing a law "to punish the murder of unborn babies."
John Berns, a Minnesota lawyer behind the group, said ads soon will air in other heavily Catholic states. Berns said he didn't vote in 2000 and hasn't decided whether to support Bush. But he has $5,000 to spend on ads opposing Kerry.
The innocuous-sounding American Political Action Committee, a gun-rights group in Bellevue, Wash., plans to do the same on that issue in 12 states with large populations of gun owners.
The Annapolis, Md.-based Mothers Opposing Bush is targeting a wider audience, as evidenced by its name. The 10-month-old organization is running an ad on cable TV networks featuring Edie Falco, of HBO's "The Sopranos" saying: "Mothers always put their children first. Mr. Bush, can you say the same?"