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MoveOn looks to Net for political ad stars

Oscar-winning director wants Web surfers for liberal group's new ads aimed at unseating President Bush.

Liberal political group is making an online casting call for a new set of political ads aimed at unseating President Bush.

The group, which has been one of several to use the Net to great effectiveness in recruiting and fund-raising over the past year, is working with documentarian Errol Morris to create a new set of advertisements starring "ordinary citizens" talking about Bush and current politics.

"I have been struck by the eloquence of ordinary citizens," Morris said in a note posted on MoveOn's Web site. "In the context of the 2004 campaign, rather than have pollsters talk to the American people, why not have the American people talk to the American people--in their own words?"

The ad project is just one part of a broad political campaign season that has used the Web to unprecedented effect. Both the Bush and John Kerry campaigns have raised millions of dollars through small online donations. Groups on both sides of the spectrum are helping to keep activists energized and raising large amounts of their own money.

MoveOn has run into some speed bumps with its Internet populist campaign.

In one earlier project, it encouraged its members to make their own anti-Bush commercials and post them on the group's Web site.

Some of these used hyperbolic comparisons, including images of Hitler and Nazis. The national Republican party almost immediately seized on these, asserting that MoveOn was promoting "political hate speech."

The group removed the controversial clips from its Web site, noting that the Hitler comparison was not the position of the organization. But the clips later found their way into a GOP Web advertisement casting Democrat Kerry as leader of a "coalition of the wild-eyed."

The latest campaign asks people to fill out a survey telling "personal stories" that would illuminate choices between Bush and Kerry. Morris will choose a dozen people to interview for a series of advertisements that will run near the time of the Democratic convention.

Morris' last film, "The Fog of War," won the Oscar for best documentary for its portrayal of the life of Robert McNamara, the U.S. secretary of defense, through the early years of the Vietnam War.