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NBC Olympics Coverage Should Bar Super PAC Ads, Group Says

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WASHINGTON -- A new coalition opposed to super PACs, unPAC.org, is calling on NBC to reject super PAC ads during the London Olympics.

The call, which is accompanied by a petition drive that has gathered more than 15,000 signatures, comes as super PACs supporting President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have announced plans to buy time during the Olympic games.

An online grassroots initiative, unPAC.org aims to reform the nation's campaign finance laws. Joining the effort are Root Strikers, started by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig; Purpose, led by the founders of the online organizing site Avaaz.org; and the new campaign finance reform group United Republic.

Matthew Palevsky, campaigns director for unPAC.org, said in a statement, "Super PACs are the political equivalent to juicing. They're already corrupting our elections, and NBC shouldn't let them ruin the Olympics."

Both the pro-Romney Restore Our Future and the pro-Obama Priorities USA Action have made Olympics advertising buys at NBC affiliates in swing states, but they have not made any national NBC buys. The Obama campaign has reserved Olympics airtime -- $6.5 million worth -- while the Romney campaign has not yet.

Josh Silver, the CEO of United Republic, said of the push against super PAC ads, "It's really an effort to use the slow-motion car crash that is the 2012 election funding and super PAC spending and channel the anger of the electorate towards becoming part of the reform movement."

"This is just the first salvo," he added. "unPAC.org is going to be reaching out every time there is a breach of ethics leading up to the November 6 election."

Seth Winter, the head of advertising sales for NBC's Olympics coverage, told The New York Times in June that negative ads tend to do poorly during the games. Pointing to one ad run by 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain, Winter said, "His creative was a little bit on the negative side. And I don't think it did well. Our research showed it didn't do well for him."

That McCain spot was the well-known "Celebrity" ad linking images of Obama with red-carpet shots of socialite and reality television star Paris Hilton. It did receive massive press attention, signaling that a creative negative ad can break through even in the positive air of the Olympics.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated incorrectly that Restore Our Future and Priorities USA Action had not made specific ad buys during NBC's Olympics coverage. While neither of those super PACs has made national ad buys during the Olympics coverage, they have bought airtime at NBC state affiliates.

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