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Television Ad Portrays Kerry as ‘Priceless’ Liberal Elitist

Times Staff Writer

The first Republican-linked television ad attacking presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry depicts him as an old-fashioned liberal who, despite his avowed populism, favors expensive haircuts and designer shirts and owns a 42-foot yacht and several lavish residences.

The advertisement is airing this week in about a dozen states, according to the head of Citizens United, the conservative group paying for it. The spot, a sendup of MasterCard’s “Priceless” ad campaign, also ran Sunday on a station in the nation’s capital.

As the 30-second ad flashes photographs of the candidate, boats in a harbor and various pieces of real estate, a narrator says: “Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry. Hairstyle by Christophe’s: $75. Designer shirts: $250. Forty-two-foot luxury yacht: $1 million. Four lavish mansions and beachfront estate: Over $30 million.”

It then shows Kerry with his home-state Democratic colleague Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, as the narrator adds: “Another rich, liberal elitist from Massachusetts who claims he’s a man of the people. Priceless.”

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The ad is the first counterpunch to a series of commercials criticizing President Bush that Kerry, some of his former rivals in the Democratic race and liberal groups opposed to Bush have financed in recent months.

Another Democratic-leaning group announced it would run an anti-Bush ad starting Wednesday. Jim Jordan, a spokesman for the Media Fund, said the organization, funded in part by liberal billionaire George Soros, was planning to buy $4.5 million worth of ads over two weeks targeting 17 states.

Republican officials say the group’s ads are in violation of campaign laws that limit the size of donations to certain organizations that influence federal elections, but Jordan dismissed the charge as “utterly false.”

The new anti-Kerry commercial was conceived by David N. Bossie, a former Republican congressional aide and a longtime critic of former President Clinton.

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“It’s the first salvo of many,” said Bossie, the president of Citizens United.

“We just felt it was important that we stand up for President Bush and put who John Kerry is and his record in front of the American people as soon as possible,” Bossie said.

Bossie called Kerry an elitist. “Even though he’s coming across with this ‘man of the people’ program, he’s anything but,” he said.

Although Bush also hails from a privileged family, Bossie said voters perceived him as a “likable, average guy” -- an image many Democrats dispute.

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Factually, the ad’s depiction of Kerry’s wealth seems on solid ground.

The senator is married to Teresa Heinz Kerry, heiress to a fortune made in condiments. The couple own residential property in Boston; Georgetown; Washington, D.C.; Nantucket, Mass.; and Idaho.

Their wealth is extensively documented in annual public disclosures required of members of Congress.

The details about Kerry’s tastes in shirts and haircuts were culled from news clippings, Bossie said.

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When asked about his finances, Kerry acknowledges he is wealthy but says his commitment to middle-class and lower-income Americans should be judged by his record as a senator and his agenda as a presidential candidate.

Kerry points to Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy as presidents who came from privileged backgrounds but understood the needs of the average family.

In response to the ad, Kerry spokesman David Wade wrote in an e-mail to reporters: “The cost of the Bush economic plan: 3 million jobs lost. The cost of the Bush Medicare bill: $139 billion giveaway to big drug companies. A new president who will reverse George Bush’s radical direction? Priceless.”

Meanwhile, details emerged Monday on Bush’s first TV commercials. The president’s reelection campaign spent more than $1.3 million to air four ads from Thursday through Saturday, according to data compiled for The Times by TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, in Virginia.

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Ads for Kerry, who is racing to raise money to counter Bush’s enormous financial edge, were not on the air during that time.

The Bush ads, targeting expected battlegrounds in the November election, ran on stations in 20 states and on five national cable outlets: CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, FX and the Speed Channel, which is devoted to motor sports.

The ads promoted the president and his record instead of attacking his anticipated foe. But Bush campaign officials say they may soon open up a television front against Kerry.


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