Yesterday morning, the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Factcheck.org hosted “Cash Attack 2010,” a discussion about political advertising in the 2010 midterm elections. One panel featured an assortment of Republican strategists, including Carl Forti, the director of the Karl Rove front group American Crossroads, and Rob Collins, a former aide to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) who now leads the Wall Street-funded group called American Action Forum. American Action Forum claims to be a policy think tank, but it spends much of its money on busing volunteers to help Republican candidates, airing attack ads on television and radio against Democrats, and engaging in other partisan activities. Along with the two tax entities of American Crossroads, AAN spent over $70 million helping to elect Republicans in 2010.
Collins used his time during the panel to explain that AAN played a pivotal role “expanding the playing field” for Republicans to gain additional seats by supplementing the campaign expenditures of candidates and party committees. One of the American Action Forum ads Collins highlighted was called “Ouch,” an early attack commercial against Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). The ad depicted Murray wearing her famous tennis shoes stepping through the mud and then literally stomping on the backs of a man and two children. The citation list that backed up the message for the ad claimed that Murray was stepping on children because she voted for H.R. 2, an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
Yesterday, ThinkProgress asked Collins to justify how voting to provide children with health insurance is related to stepping on the backs of children. Collins stammered repeatedly before eventually mumbling that SCHIP decreases “opportunity”:
TP: I saw the Patty Murray tennis shoes ad, and when I saw the ad go up, I saw the citation back up that you put up to source your claims in that ad. For when you have Patty Murray stepping on the child, I saw the citation was her vote for SCHIP. As someone who leads an allegedly serious policy think tank, can you explain how stepping on a child is akin to voting for health insurance for children?
COLLINS: Um, can you summarize your question? You kind of had a long line there.
TP: The summary is, your ad had Patty Murray stepping on a child, and the back up claim for that ad in the citation was that she voted for SCHIP. Can you explain how stepping on a child, or voting for SCHIP is akin to stepping on a child?
COLLINS: Well you’re clearly trying to make a point and I appreciate that point and we have a different point of view.
TP: As the leader of a policy think tank, could you explain that to me?
COLLINS: Our point of view is government decreases the ability for this company, for this country to have um, economic freedom. This ad was about small business and as you increase the size of government, you decrease opportunity. When you’re — I mean you’ll have to forgive me, you’re talking about an ad. We did 53 individual ads.
TP: You featured the ad, you’re pretty proud of it in the newsreel, but you don’t want to explain that at all?
The SCHIP bill Murray voted for provided health insurance for four million children.