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How Joe Wilson's Heckle Became a Campaign Cash Cow

Did Democrats actually do Rep. Joe Wilson a favor by rebuking him on the House floor? In the week since the South Carolina Republican interrupted President Obama’s speech, Wilson has raised almost $1.8 million for his 2010 reelection bid, thanks in part to all the publicity. Rob Miller, Wilson’s Democratic opponent, has raised about $1.6 million. And money on both sides keeps rolling in, in part because of some aggressive efforts to tap into online political donors while the drama is still hot.

Just check out Google─where parties working on behalf of both Wilson and Miller have been running online ads that come up when people look for certain phrases. When you Google the phrase “Joe Wilson,” at least four sponsored political ads show up. One is paid for by Wilson’s reelection campaign: “Joe Wilson Under Attack: Stand with Joe and fight back.” Another is from ActBlue, the liberal political-action committee that acts as a conduit for Democratic candidates and is raising money for Miller: “Say no to Joe.” Even Senate Democrats are trying to raise funds over Wilson’s drama: “Had Enough of Hecklers?” The link connects to a donation site for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Indeed, political ads both in opposition and support of Wilson pop up no matter how you search for information on the incident. Both Wilson and Miller are running ads on the search phrase “You lie.” Wilson’s campaign also has ads on searches for “Joe Wilson rebuked” and “Joe Wilson race”─though it's unclear if “race” refers to the actual campaign or the recent debate over whether Wilson’s heckle was “based on racism,” as former president Jimmy Carter suggested in an interview this week. There are also pro-Wilson ads on searches for “you lie congressman,” “you lie Obama,” “Wilson liar,” and “Rob Miller Congress.” But it's not just Google ads where we're seeing post-heckle fundraising efforts. On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee sent an e-mail blast to its members soliciting donations in the wake of the House's rebuke of Wilson, while last week the Democratic National Committee reportedly raised $1 million the day after Obama's speech, a haul credited in part to outrage over Wilson's outburst.

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