An advertising campaign encouraging shoppers to "Buy American" has been banned in Seattle for being too political.
King County, which includes Seattle, rejected local nonprofit organization TAP America's attempt to run the ads on the sides of buses, citing county policy against ads expressing a view on "matters of public debate about political, religious or social issues," the Seattle Times reported.
The rejected ads read: "December is Buy American Month. Shop Locally. Join Seattle's TAPamerica.org."
TAP America -- which stands for "Tolerance, Americanism, Patriotism" -- had sought to place the ads starting this week, concentrating on bus routes that run through downtown Seattle shopping districts, according to the Times.
Richard Tso, TAP America's executive director, told the newspaper the message was intended to remind holiday shoppers they could do something positive for the country when spending their money. He said the group was planning to spend about $8,000 to run the ads on 45 buses for the next month.
"I think the concept of buying American is not something that we should be afraid of," Tso told KIRO-FM. "I think it's something that we should start to embrace, I think, as a society. It was quite a shock."
Mark Bloome, the Seattle philanthropist who founded the organization this year, said he was similarly baffled by the county's rejection.
"We're not political," Bloome said. "We're just trying to keep the light of liberty alive as the economy spins down, and the only answer I have seen is to buy American."
He added that it was absurd that the county would accept ads for clothing made in China but denied a "Buy American" ad.
But a King County Metro spokeswoman defended the decision to reject the ads, calling the "Buy American" concept "an issue of both political and economic debate."
The county's policy was enacted after another controversy when a local group tried to buy bus ads last year showing a rubble-strewn street with the words "Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work."
King County rejected the Israel ads, saying they could lead to disruptions of bus service, which prompted the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign to sue. A federal judge ultimately sided with the county, saying the decision to bar the ad was "a viewpoint-neutral and reasonable restriction in a limited public forum."
The bus agency had refused to accept any noncommercial bus ads until it adopted a revised policy prohibiting political ads.
But Bloome told the Times he doesn't think TAP America's message is anywhere near as disruptive, and said the group hopes the county will reconsider its decision.