California consumer group airs election ad in Times Square labeling tea party ‘insane’

By Robin Hindery, AP
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Calif group airs anti-tea party ad in Times Square

NEW YORK — A California consumer-advocacy group is hoping to rally the left before the November election with an ad on a Times Square video screen that labels the tea party movement as “insane.”

The 30-second spot by Consumer Watchdog, which began airing Tuesday, flashes phrases such as “home foreclosures” and “Wall Street greed” across a 520-square-foot screen as flames burn in the background.

It asks viewers, “Are you mad as hell but think the tea party is insane?”

The Santa Monica-based nonprofit wants to provide voters with an alternative to the tea party and help channel their frustration in productive ways, said its president, Jamie Court.

“Popular anger can be such a force for change, and people who support progress can’t allow the tea party to use that anger for their ends, which is to get control of the reins of government and then do away with it,” Court said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The ad directs viewers to the Consumer Watchdog website and to Court’s recently published book, “The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.”

A spokesman for the California-based Tea Party Express, one of the nation’s largest and most visible tea party groups, said the ad was a great example of the movement’s growing influence.

“Almost no political conversation can take place today without some mention of the tea party,” Levi Russell said in an e-mail message. “That in itself indicates where the real momentum and power lies, and gives a hint about what kind of results we should expect on Election Day.”

The spot will air 18 times a day until Oct. 15, according to Neutron Media, the Toronto-based company that sells ad space for the CBS-owned screen.

The $25,000 ad buy also covered a previous Consumer Watchdog spot criticizing Google for tracking its users’ online activities. That ad started running Sept. 1 and was replaced by the election ad, Court said.

Consumer Watchdog is best known for its lawsuits against the insurance industry and other corporations, the proceeds of which account for about one-third of its funding, Court said. It also receives significant financial support from trial lawyers and labor unions.

Hindery reported from Sacramento, Calif.


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