Gerlach blasts PAC's funding He urged Lois Murphy, his Sixth Dist. Democratic challenger, to return donations from MoveOn.org.

Posted: October 08, 2004

Officials for the reelection campaign of freshman GOP incumbent Jim Gerlach attacked his Sixth Congressional District Democratic opponent, Lois Murphy, for accepting money from MoveOn.org PAC, an Internet-based grassroots organization that supports Democrats.

"It is a wacko, extremist group," Gerlach spokesman John Gentzel said. A press release from the Gerlach camp stated that the group's "radical agenda" included spending millions of dollars on advertisements comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler. It called on the Murphy campaign to return any money it received from the PAC.

Hannah Pingree, national candidate outreach coordinator for the MoveOn.org PAC, said the group had never run any such ad. She said that last year, the organization held an online ad contest which attracted 175,000 participants and generated more than 1,500 responses, including one that compared the President to Hitler.

"That ad went up online, and as soon as we knew it was there, we took it down," she said. "We did not create it, endorse it, or run it."

Political experts consider the Sixth District, which covers parts of Montgomery, Chester and Berks Counties and one precinct in Lehigh County, to be a Republican-leaning district, and say this year's contest is Gerlach's to lose. In his first race for the seat two years ago, Gerlach won 51 percent of the vote.

In June, Murphy was one of the first four congressional candidates nationwide endorsed by MoveOn.org PAC. So far, the PAC has endorsed a total of 15 House and Senate candidates.

Earlier this year, the grassroots power of MoveOn.org stunned the political world when its backing turned once obscure Vermont governor Howard Dean into a contender for the Democratic nomination for President. MoveOn.org's PAC endorses political candidates and raises money by encouraging donations to their campaigns by individual PAC members. Murphy campaign spokesman Nick Berning estimated that less than 10 percent of the approximately $750,000 Murphy raised as of June 30 came from MoveOn.org PAC.

The Gerlach reelection campaign's attack on Murphy came shortly after the Philadelphia appearance of billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is expected to contribute up to $20 million to organizations working to defeat President Bush, including MoveOn.org's Voter Fund, one of three entities in the MoveOn.org family.

The MoveOn.org PAC, which contributed to Murphy's campaign, is separate from MoveOn.org's Voter Fund. None of Soros' money went to Murphy's campaign, Pingree said. "Her money came directly from members who thought she was running a good race," MoveOn.org's Pingree said.

Murphy campaign spokesman Berning said he was saddened but not surprised at the negative attack.

This week Murphy received the endorsement of the Sierra Club, one of the nation's largest and most influential environmental organizations. Yesterday, Gerlach announced earning the Guardian of Small Business Award from the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Contact staff writer Nancy Petersen at 610-701-7602 or npetersen@phillynews.com.

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