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Minneapolis neighbors hope to be players in campaign ad battle
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The spot features doctored archival footage of Osama bin Laden, flanked by a few supporters, making an announcement in a desolate countryside somewhere, presumably in Afghanistan. (Video shot from
A group of south Minneapolis neighbors that wanted to get involved in the presidential race has produced its own campaign commercial. The spot has Osama bin Laden endorsing the Bush-Cheney re-election effort. The ad contends President Bush's approach to the war on terrorism is strengthening al Qaeda. Campaign finance observers say while independent expenditures are certainly nothing new in presidential policies, they have yet to hear about a few neighbors actually producing an ad.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Had a handful of south Minneapolis neighbors simply gotten the Kerry-Edwards campaign yard signs they'd asked for this summer, they say they would not have ending up producing their own TV commercial.

Kelley Garry-Marschall came up with the idea while taking a walk around the neighborhood about a month ago.

"I think we were all just really frustrated by the way the whole campaign was shaking out. We wanted to do something because we felt like some issues weren't being addressed," she said.

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Image How the idea originated

What Garry-Marschall and a dozen friends came up with is a scathing 30-second attack on the Bush administration's war on terrorism.

The spot features archival videotape of Osama bin Laden, flanked by a few supporters, making an announcement in a desolate countryside somewhere, presumably in Afghanistan.

The fictitious translation has a street slang-speaking bin Laden crediting President Bush for bolstering his terror network.

"Those prison photos sent recruitment through the roof. Give it up for George W. Bush, the best friend international jihad ever had," the "translator" in the ad says.

The camera pulls back to show one of his supporters holding a Bush-Cheney '04 campaign sign. The producer superimposed that image on the archival footage. The ad ends with bold letters in the center of the screen which read: Defend America. Defeat George W. Bush.

An advertising copywriter who lives a few houses down the block from Kelly Garry-Marschall came up with script. Another friend, who produces music videos for a living, agreed to put together the ad for free.

The neighbors filed documents with the Internal Revenue Service establishing their group as, a 527 group -- IRS code for a tax-exempt organization that's not regulated by the Federal Elections Commission.

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The ad cost about $1,000 to produce. Getting it broadcast repeatedly will cost considerably more. They hope to begin airing their ad on Twin Cities TV stations within days.

Even if the group comes up with the money to do that, there's no assurance stations will approve running it. The general manager of WCCO TV in Minneapolis says stations are not legally obligated to air independent expenditure ads, but that executive said WCCO only rejects ads if management deems them overly offensive.

The group is also posting the ad on the Web.

They insist their effort is entirely grassroots, just a few Minneapolis neighbors and a friend in St. Paul; no one with deep pockets. That's unusual in the growing world of 527s. "We have in the past seen groups -- small groups of people getting together. And occasionally you'll hear about a group that's really only one or two people behind it. They tend to be heavily financed with their own money, so this type of phenomenon has happened," says Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group. "What's interesting about this is it seems to be a neighborhood group and they seem to be starting small. The question will be how effective they are."

The Kerry campaign says it does not support the images the ad uses. Minnesota spokeswoman Stacy Paxton denounced the ad, saying she hopes it will not end up on TV.

"We want to bring these issues in a positive format, to talk about what we're facing and talk about policy -- and not be divisive," Paxton says.

The Minnesota spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign, Peter Hong, says he doesn't want to see the ad on TV either. But he also says he's not too worried about its effect on the race.

"Certainly no advertisement, especially one so full of hate, is going to have a negative impact on the president," Hong says.

The people who made the ad say they expected the Kerry campaign would disapprove of their commercial, but they say they'll try to run it anyway.

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