(CNSNews.com) - Liberal activist groups MoveOn.org, USAction, Americans United for Change, VoteVets, and the Service Employees International Union, along with former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife, joined forces Monday to announce a $20-million public awareness and lobbying campaign to promote a perceived link between the war in Iraq and a weakening U.S. economy.
"This campaign will raise awareness of the unseen costs of Bush's singular focus on the war in Iraq and his failure to focus on strengthening the American economy, schools, health care and real security, and use the political energy and outrage that the campaign generates to drive Congress to end the war and to get out the anti-war vote," said a written statement released by the campaign.
In a conference call with reporters, founders of the Iraq Campaign 2008, as it is named, said the operation will include advertising, anti-war events, and lobbying efforts intended to bring the unpopular war to an end.
Eli Pariser, executive director of Moveon.org, said Iraq Campaign 2008 is the biggest grassroots movement of the year (with the exception of the elections).
"Our goal remains what it has always been: to end the Iraq War," he said. This campaign will "make the rising costs of the war and the tradeoffs it has forced this country to make a central issue" in this year's elections, said Pariser.
According to Jeff Blum, executive director of the liberal Web site USAction.org, the campaign was started partly in response to a poll conducted by his group, which showed that wing voters are concerned about Iraq.
"We polled voters in 65 swing congressional districts," Blum said.
"The results show that people are angry -- they want to get out of Iraq in order to invest in the American future. By [a margin of] 65 to 25, swing voters who do not permanently lean Democrat or Republican support ending the wasteful spending in Iraq so we can invest in America's priorities. In this campaign we will amplify their voices," he added.
Pariser told reporters that lobbying will be a significant aspect of the campaign. "This Iraq and recession campaign will focus on members of Congress and the Senate who stand in our way, and on Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is arguing for an Iraq policy that takes us in a dramatically different direction," he said.
The coalition said it has identified up to 50 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as several senators who they think can be defeated in November if their support for the Iraq war is brought to public awareness.
Former Sen. John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth, who joined the telephone press conference, voiced their support for the campaign.
He noted that action is needed particularly because McCain is likely to be the Republican presidential candidate.
"John McCain has made it very clear: he intends to go along with the same exact policy as George Bush," said Edwards. Elizabeth Edwards added her belief that the economy and the war are linked. "If the economy is the No. 1 issue when you are voting, the war is No. 1 too," she said. "There is a connection between the two."
But Brian Riedl, senior budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Cybercast News Service that if Mrs. Edwards is in any way suggesting the war is responsible for the receding economy, she is mistaken.
"The idea that Iraq spending is causing our economic woes has no basis in any economic theory whatsoever," he said. "It's not economically plausible that spending 1 percent of GDP in Iraq would cause a recession."
John Podesta, president and CEO of the liberal American Center of Progress, who joined the conference, also saw a connection between the war and the shaky economy. "There is no question that Bush's war policies combined with his economic policies have had the overall effect of weakening our national security and economy," he said.
The strategies for the campaign vary from organization to organization. According to Blum, USAction.org will mobilize veterans around the country in March, on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war, to protest the war.
Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United for Change, told Cybercast News Service his organization plans on creating a $750,000 "Bush Legacy Bus" that will tour the country featuring an exhibition of the "greatest hits of the failure of the Bush administration" including the war, Hurricane Katrina, the economy, and healthcare.
Funk said they plan to stop the bus in front of the offices of legislators who supported Bush policies and say "you made this happen. You enabled these policies."
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