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GOP ADS AIM TO KEEP MOLINARI SEAT

Republicans are using unregulated "soft money" contributions from corporations and wealthy donors in an effort to keep the House seat of former Rep. Susan Molinari in GOP hands.

The party launched a series of advertisements Tuesday to help Vito Fossella, a New York City councilman running for the seat that Ms. Molinari, wife of Rep. Bill Paxon, R-Amherst, N.Y., vacated to become a TV anchorwoman.

The spots don't mention Fossella by name. But they criticize by name his Democratic opponent, State Assemblyman Eric Vitaliano, for raising taxes on families and voting to raise his own pay.

In politics, the spots are known as "issue ads" because they supposedly promote generic party ideals and don't use words such as "vote for" or "vote against" to urge viewers to elect a specific candidate.

Despite the absence of these words, the ads are often indistinguishable from a candidate's campaign ads. The GOP and the Democratic Party spent tens of millions on such ads during the 1996 election. Critics have accused both camps of using the technique to get around legal campaign-spending limits.

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