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Attack ad seeks to link Obama, ex-pastor

Times Staff Writer

The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. and his inflammatory sermon have surfaced in an ad attacking Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, but it’s not clear how widely it will air.

Conservative consultants Sal Russo and Joe Wierzbicki of Sacramento and former California Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian teamed up to produce the spot, which asserts, “Barack Obama seems to have different values from most Americans.”

Contending that Republican John McCain has not been aggressive enough, Russo and his allies produced the ad and rented a bus that they intend to drive across the country with the goal of rallying voters against Obama in swing states.

Wierzbicki estimated that they have raised $600,000 to $700,000 in a new political action committee, Our Country Deserves Better.

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However, a Democratic source, who declined to be identified, said the initial advertising buy may be as little as $6,000.

The amount the PAC has raised could not be verified through Federal Election Commission filings. The group is not required to file its initial disclosure until later this month.

The ad opens with a shot of Democratic candidates standing for the national anthem, their hands over their hearts. Obama, however, has his hands clasped in front of him.

It ends with the narrator intoning, “And who can forget these hateful sermons from Obama’s pastor of over 20 years.” Wright is heard to say, “God damn America.”

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Some independent groups as well as Obama and McCain have aired attack ads during the campaign. McCain himself has sought to link Obama to William Ayers, a founder of the radical Weather Underground, but he has stopped short of using Wright in ads.

“Our contention in this election year is that for a Republican to win, you have to draw a contrast,” Wierzbicki said.

Russo’s GOP credentials date to President Reagan. Kaloogian won his Assembly seat when Republicans briefly took control of the lower house in 1994. He served until 2000, when he was forced to quit because of term limits.

Kaloogian is an attorney who has represented the Minutemen, the anti-illegal-immigration group. He and Russo helped with the 2003 effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis.

Kaloogian, who could not be reached for comment, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, and in 2006 he received 5% of the vote when he ran to replace Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who was imprisoned on bribery charges.

“Has Howard resurfaced?” asked Steve Peace, a Democrat who was part of the San Diego County delegation when Kaloogian served. “Howard has always been ambitious.”

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dan.morain@latimes.com

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