The Source: The Republican Leadership Council (RLC), formed in 1997 by then-Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) with the stated mission of uniting the GOP around mainstream issues. Because the RLC is an independent group, it can use unregulated "soft money" to finance ads on behalf of candidates and is not required to disclose the names of its donors.
The Ad: The RLC is launching a TV ad in support of New York GOP Senate hopeful Rick Lazio, the Long Island congressman. The 30-second ad, titled Everyone Agrees, will air for two weeks at a cost of $100,000 in five upstate cities: Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Binghamton, and Syracuse. The ad emphasizes Lazio's bipartisan skills and features praise for Lazio from none other than President Clinton, the spouse of his Democratic opponent - first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Audio: Announcer: "Republicans and Democrats agree - Rick Lazio is a leader. Lazio fought to cut taxes, reform welfare and balance the budget. Even President Clinton repeatedly praised Lazio for his 'leadership' in protecting health care for the disabled and his strong 'bipartisan support' for work on behalf of breast cancer victims. The record is clear. Rick Lazio is a leader. Call. Tell Rick Lazio to keep fighting for issues important to us."
Visual: The ad features shots of Lazio from his recent bus tour across New York State on the "Mainstream Express." It opens with Lazio stepping off the bus into a crowd waving American flags. The words "leader," "cut taxes," "reform welfare," and "balance budget" appear on screen as Lazio happily interacts with supporters. The camera pans from Lazio to President Clinton in the Oval Office - and the two men share the screen in one frame. As the announcer describes the president's praise of Lazio, the phrases "Leadership, Healthcare for the Disabled" and "Bipartisan, Help Breast Cancer Victims" are shown. The ad concludes with a close-up of a smiling Lazio speaking to a crowd in front of his bus.
Fact Check: President Clinton's "praise" for Lazio came in the form of two routine White House press releases in which the President thanked Lazio and other lawmakers for his support of financing breast cancer research and health care for the disabled.
The Strategy: This TV ad is the second in support of Lazio by an independent group. (The first ad came from the New York Conservative Party). Lazio's campaign has yet to release any ads of its own. Mrs. Clinton's campaign immediately attacked the ad for its unregulated funding - and pointed out that Lazio voted two weeks ago to allow groups like the RLC to keep their donor lists secret.
Although the RLC produced the ad ndependently of Lazio's campaign, Everyone Agrees echoes Lazio's campaign themes. From the opening line of "Republicans and Democrats agree Rick Lazio is a leader," the ad portrays Lazio as strongly bipartisan, countering the Clinton camp's label of him as a Newt Gingrich-type conservative. The ad also appeals to independent and Democratic voters by showcasing President Clinton's "praise" of Lazio. Not only does Lazio appear in the same frame as Mr. Clinton, but the president commends the congressman for his "bipartisan support" of liberal issues such as health care for the disabled. Finally, the ad's repeated reference to Lazio's voting record is a thinly veiled reminder of the first lady's lack of a legislative record.