WASHINGTON – One commercial claims Democrats support "abortion laws that are decimating our people," while another argues that Democrats "preach tolerance but practice discrimination."
Operating largely under the radar, Americas PAC (search), a little-known conservative group based in Overland Park, Kan., has been airing ads excoriating Democrats on black radio stations in five states this month. The spots have drawn the ire of Democrats who claim the commercials are designed to keep a crucial voting bloc for the party at home on Nov. 2.
Americas PAC says its ads — on issues from taxes to school choice to the economy — are designed to encourage blacks to go to the polls in support of President Bush and Republicans. The group denies that it's attempting to suppress the black vote to help Bush, as Democrats contend.
"That claim is attached to anything Republicans do in an attempt to mobilize blacks for Republicans," Richard Nadler, the head of the group, said Tuesday. "It's not true."
Nadler is a white conservative from Kansas City who in 2000, through the Republican Ideas Political Action Committee, ran TV ads on education that both Democratic and Republican critics said amounted to race baiting.
In 2002, he created an ad for GOPAC, a Republican interest group, comparing Social Security benefits to slavery reparations — except paid to whites by blacks. The group pulled the ad after it was criticized as racially insensitive.
"I don't even flinch right now when people say 'aren't you being a little harsh?'" Nadler said. "Guess what? The Democrats have been doing this and worse to us for years now. We were portrayed as the party that dragged blacks to their death, put guns in their children's hands."
Rep. John Lewis, a black Democrat from Georgia, called the ads "repugnant, vicious" and filled with "outright lies that distort the facts."
"They are a deliberate, systematic effort to try to discourage African-American voters from turning out and voting," Lewis said. "These people know that the African-American vote is not going to go to the Republicans. The whole idea is to confuse people and raise doubts in their minds."
This year, Nadler's new group, Americas PAC, has bought at least $130,000 worth of airtime to run ads on urban radio stations that reach black and Hispanics in Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin through the election. It's a relatively small amount, but the ads are meant to have a larger impact in a targeted community.
Blacks have been a loyal constituency for Democrats and voter turnout is critical for Sen. John Kerry on Election Day. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won 90 percent of the black vote as he won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote. A new poll by the Pew Research Center on Tuesday showed an erosion of support for Democrats, with 73 percent of blacks supporting Kerry compared to 12 percent support for Bush.
Democrats, concerned about diminished support, are seeking to reverse the trend. One Democratic group, the Media Fund, launched a massive ad campaign that included a spot saying: "The Republicans want you to sit out this election and simply stay home. Who are they fooling?"
Meanwhile, Americas PAC plans to make another push into the black community this week with a series of commercials featuring the group's new spokesman, Herman Cain, a prominent black Republican and former chairman of Godfather's Pizza who was a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Georgia.
"What's wrong with the Hollywood Democrats?" Cain asks in one ad on national security. "Freedom has never been free. We must support and honor those who fight for it around the world to protect us here at home. The Republican Party understands this."