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Big Money in Hand, GOP 527 Mounts Ad Blitz

Fueled by massive donations from three wealthy Republicans, the leading GOP “527” organization plans to spend millions of additional dollars on television ads in battleground states this summer to help re-elect President Bush this fall.

Since ramping up its fundraising effort two months ago, the independent Republican group, Progress for America, has raised $2.1 million for the advertising campaign.

Progress for America received its first million-dollar check from Jerry Perenchio, the chairman of Univision, in mid-June.

Within weeks, Progress for America received separate $500,000 contributions from New York businessman Paul Singer and Carl Lindner, who owns Chiquita Brands and the Cincinnati Reds.

Before Congress banned soft money, the three Republican businessmen were among the top contributors to the Republican Party, giving a total of $2.1 million to GOP causes in the 2001-02 election cycle.

Now that such soft-money contributions to the national political parties are illegal, the three have shifted their financial support to Progress for America.

The rival Democratic 527 organization, America Coming Together, has been much more successful at hauling in large checks from wealthy Democrats. So far, America Coming Together has raised about $75 million and hopes to bring in more than $100 million for this fall’s elections.

Though GOP efforts are far behind, the founders of Progress for America say they are buoyed by the first round of large checks from Republican donors and have begun running television ads in swing states promoting the president’s re-election campaign.

Progress for America is running ads in New Mexico and Nevada that praise Bush’s leadership and question the ability of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) to command the fight against terrorism.

The initial ad buy, which cost $1 million, will end Thursday.

“The Nevada and New Mexico ads will run through the end of this week, then we are going to look into where to go next,” said Brian McCabe of Progress for America. “The state that we will go into next has not been determined.”