Blowing a Fuse

A black-owned St. Louis advertising firm is stirring the political pot

In other words, both the Bush and Kerry campaigns rely on the activities of 527s, even though election law prohibits communication between 527s and campaigns. 527 groups have come to represent the more partisan, fringe elements of a campaign, while simultaneously keeping the politician above the fray.

"Both campaigns are really emphasizing -- at least in the television commercials -- the middle ground," says Puro, who adds that many 527s focus on single issues and voter groups. "Some of the most controversial ads are put out by the 527s; no one's yelling and screaming at the ads that are put on by Bush or Kerry."

The Media Fund's advertising campaign has already drawn fire from conservative quarters. Former Oklahoma Representative J.C. Watts, an African American, issued a statement on behalf of the Republican National Committee, saying, "John Kerry has no record with the black community, and so his supporters in these shadow groups are launching more of the same unfounded, negative and personal attacks against George W. Bush."

In any case, the makers of the "Don't Keep Getting Played" commercials are courting a demographic that might determine whether Missouri ultimately aligns with the Democrats or the Republicans in November. In a campaign season where recent polls show Bush leading Kerry by a seven-point margin in Missouri, the state's estimated 449,000 potential black voters -- roughly 11 percent of the population aged 18 and older -- might have enough clout to snuff out that lead.

"We're trying to make sure that we communicate with these voters very effectively," says The Media Fund's Simmons. "It's a big prize, especially at a time when we believe that every vote is going to count."

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