Washington Secrets

Tea Party: Are welfare, free phones slavery?

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

A national Tea Party group, seizing on a video of the so-called "Obama phone lady" urging the poor to vote for the president because he provides welfare, food stamps and "free phones," suggests in a new TV ad that the impact of the policies is "enslavement."

Hoping to punch through the clutter of other political ads running in the battleground state, the Tea Party Victory Fund, headed by former Cincinnati mayor and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, asks this question at the start of the 30-second ad: "Have Barack Obama's policies empowered or enslaved Americans?"

The ad shows the unidentified black, female Obama supporter bragging about the president during a roadside rally. "He gave us a phone. Keep Obama in president," she cheered.

The woman is asked how she got a free phone, and answers, "you sign up if you are in food stamps, you are in Social Security, you've got low income. Keep Obama in president. He gave us a phone."

The video sparked debate over the free phone policy. It is not a phone provided by the White House or Obama campaign, but instead is part of a Federal Communications Commission program called Lifeline that provides low-cost or free phone service.

The Tea Party ad, changed from color to black and white, will run in Akron, Youngstown and Toledo and eventually other battleground states. It also noted that one in seven Americans are on food stamps and that debt has surged under Obama. "Can we afford four more years of Barack Obama?" asks the ad.

Blackwell, who is black, called his group's ad an "October surprise" in a fundraising email. "This commercial is a microcosm of the difference between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans want to create an environment where free people make their own choices and pursue their dreams. President Obama and the Democrats want to create a dependency on government that ensures that Americans rely on Washington from cradle to grave," he said.

"What this lady said is so offensive because it's so blatant--she finally comes out and says what we all know that the Democrats really think," said Blackwell.

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