McCain Exploits Coal Industry Smear Tactics To Help Sell His Energy Plan

Earlier this week, Kansans for Affordable Energy, a coal-industry-funded advocacy group, blanketed Kansas with misleading advertisements that smeared Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) as supporting Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad because her administration had denied air permits for two coal-powered generators in the state due to environmental concerns.

The founder of the group, Bob Kreutzer, eventually admitted that the sensational ad campaign was “a little bit extreme.” Apparently the Ahmadinejad-referencing tactic wasn’t too “extreme” for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). His campaign used images of the three heads of state as the backdrop for a speech on energy independence in Iowa on Monday after a member of his staff reportedly saw the ad:

Roy Dixon, a Garden City resident and treasurer of Kansans for Affordable Energy, said Tuesday a McCain staffer recently saw one of his groups’ ads featuring Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Russian President Vladimir Putin and used the tactic during a campaign stop on Monday. […]

“We’re darn proud McCain liked our ad enough to use it,” Dixon said.

A local ABC affiliate in Arizona has footage of McCain using the posters:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/11/McCainEnergyAds.320.240.flv]

On Tuesday, as more and more newspapers picked up on the controversial aspects of the Kansas ad, McCain’s campaign distanced itself from the ad, with spokesman Brian Rogers telling the Topeka Capital-Journal that “the campaign had used the oversized photos at least once before at a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire.”

Despite Rogers’ denial of the timeline, however, Dixon maintained that he “understood that someone on McCain’s staff saw the advertisement and liked it.”