By MARY CLARE JALONICK
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - The anti-poverty campaign of U2 rocker Bono is investing $30 million to pressure the presidential candidates to focus on the oft-forgotten issue, with its leaders arguing on Monday that helping the poor is a national security issue.
Dubbed ONE Vote '08, the bipartisan political push aims to get President Bush's successor to commit to taking concrete steps in the first 100 days to combat hunger and disease while improving access to education and water across the globe.
"People do not go to war with people who have saved their children's lives," former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told reporters at a church in the nation's capital.
Frist is co-chair of the effort to mobilize activists to pressure the 18 or more presidential aspirants through the media and grass-roots work. The other co-chair also is a former Senate Majority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle of South Dakota.
"Some of the most vivid memories of our experience (in Congress) didn't happen in Washington, they happened in Africa," Daschle said. "It is incumbent on all of us to recognize that this must be a key part of national domestic security."
Created in 2004 by rocker Bono, the ONE organization counts 2.5 million members from across the political spectrum and all 50 states. Until now, the focus has been on raising awareness of global poverty and encouraging activists to lobby Congress to devote more money to the cause.
Now, the mission will include mobilizing activists. Among the donors: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
For months, scores of volunteers wearing black-and-white ONE T-shirts and carrying placards have been attending presidential debates and some campaign events by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and other Democrats, as well as Republicans such as John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Activity will only increase in the coming months, with town-hall-style events, mailings, a celebrity bus tour and TV advertisements.
For now, the focus is on the early primary states of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina. But the effort eventually will be expanded to the more than dozen states holding contests on Feb. 5, and will continue through the general election.
At least one candidate, Democrat John Edwards, has focused on combatting poverty, heading an anti-poverty center in North Carolina in recent years.
In the fall, the group will ask candidates to sign a pledge and embrace a platform that lays out concrete steps to:
-Fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
-Improve child and maternal health.
-Increase access to basic education, particularly for girls.
-Provide access to clean water and sanitation.
-Reduce by half the number of people worldwide who suffer from hunger.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)