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Liberals Mobilize To Fight Contra Aid

August 11, 1987 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Liberal groups opposed to the Reagan administration’s pro-Contra policies are mounting a $1 million TV and lobbying campaign aimed at persuading swing voters in Congress to reject any new aid for the Nicaraguan rebels.

The effort, spearheaded by the activist groups Citizen Action, Neighbor to Neighbor Action and Witness For Peace, will feature TV commercials urging people to telephone their congressional representatives. Sponsors say they also will organize groups to travel to Washington and lobby in person.

″It’s mobilizing public opinion that’s there already. In many cases it’s latent public opinion,″ said Fred Ross Jr., director of Neighbor to Neighbor.

The campaign, called Countdown 87, will target six senators and 23 House members considered swing votes because they do not have consistently hard pro- or anti-Contra voting records, organizers said.

Countdown 87 recently conducted so-called focus group studies to learn how the public feels about the administration’s support for the Contra rebels fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.

″There was no enthusiasm for Contra aid,″ said Countdown 87 spokesman Nick Allen. ″People know they want to stop communism, but they don’t want to support the Contras to do it.″

He said the television ads will raise the specter of U.S. troops possibly being sent to Nicaragua, and advance the idea that U.S. funds could be spent for better purposes than support for the Contras.

Another focus of the campaign will be to persuade top political and financial supporters of swing voters to lobby against further Contra aid.

Organizers are touting the effort as the left’s biggest anti-Contra push ever, with about $500,000 raised so far.

The group plans to begin airing its TV and radio spots at the end of the month, anticipating that Congress will vote on Contra aid in September.

A $100 million Contra aid package runs out Sept. 30, but it is unclear when the administration will send a new aid request to Capitol Hill.

The White House on Monday declined to discuss when the administration would seek more Contra aid, saying Reagan will ″wait and see″ the progress of a new peace plan signed last weekend in Guatemala City by the presidents of five Central American nations.

That plan calls for a cease-fire, steps toward democracy in Nicaragua and an end to foreign support for insurgents in the region.

The Countdown 87 program is planning week-long courses for organizers beginning this weekend in Wichita, Kan., and Oklahoma City, where volunteers will set up phone banks and plan community meetings - techniques they then will carry to other congressional districts.

The group said it conducted similar training sessions last month in Chicago and Long Island, and generated 7,000 letters to Sen. Alan Dixon, D-Ill., one of the targeted senators, and more than 3,000 letters to Reps. Ray McGrath and Joe DioGuardi, both Republicans from New York.

Besides Dixon, the other senators who will be targeted by the campaign are: Warren Rudman, R-N.H., William Cohen, R-Maine, Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., Larry Pressler, R-S.D., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.