Putting Global Poverty on '08 Agenda

ONE Vote '08, an arm of rock star Bono's ONE Campaign, is launching a $1.8 million television ad Thursday and preparing a Christmas time mailer to inform voters in Iowa and New Hampshire about where the candidates stand on fighting global disease and extreme poverty.

The organization, which is co-chaired by former Senate leaders Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Republican Bill Frist of Tennessee, will not be making any endorsement.

The anti-poverty group is hoping, however, that early state voters will use its candidate questionnaires and videos to inform their January choices. The group is also using its 20,000-person e-mail list in Iowa to promote its agenda.

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"It's not our goal to get any one candidate elected," said Tom Hart of ONE Vote '08.

"Our goal is to educate voters in these early states about who has the best plans and to encourage candidates to have robust proposals because voters want to see them," he said.

The group's specific goals include reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS; eradicating malaria; improving child and maternal health; achieving universal primary education; and cutting in half the number of people without clean water or enough food.

Among the Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton stands out for the specificity with which she has committed to improving basic education and eradicating malaria.

The New York senator has introduced a bill that would commit $10 billion over five years to universal basic education. The former first lady has also stood out on malaria, making a specific $1 billion per year commitment while pledging to eliminate malarial deaths on the African continent by the end of her second term.

What sets Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., apart from his rivals is the level of funding that he has promised. On top of the $50 billion five-year plan to combat HIV/AIDS that he shares with Clinton and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Obama also wants to double U.S. spending on foreign assistance from $25 billion to $50 billion per year by 2012.

Edwards has distinguished himself by talking about global poverty more frequently than his rivals. He has also stood out by calling for the creation of a Marshall Corps, which would deploy 10,000 civilian experts to stabilize failing states.

Notwithstanding his recently reported 1992 aversion to boosting domestic funding for HIV/AIDS, Mike Huckabee has distinguished himself from his Republican rivals by pledging to spend $30 billion over five years to combat HIV/AIDS around the world.

While the $30 billion pledge lags behind the $50 billion pledge made by top Democrats, the former governor of Arkansas differs from his GOP rivals who shied away from a specific dollar figure.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney both submitted video messages to ONE Vote '08. But neither Republican returned ONE Vote '08's questionnaire, prompting the group to rely on the public record to flesh out their positions.

Arizona Sen. John McCain submitted both a questionnaire and a video. He did not, however, make the specific monetary commitment on HIV/AIDS.

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson has thus far not submitted either a video or a questionnaire.

While details on how to pay for these proposals have been scant, ONE Vote '08 is optimistic about its chances of influencing the next president's agenda.

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