A new ad targeting Tea Party Congressman Allen West (R-FL) over his extreme positions on women’s rights portrays him in a boxing ring throwing punches at an elderly woman, another white woman, and a middle class family.
The ad, released by a group called the American Sunrise PAC, is narrated by a woman who criticizes West’s voting record on Medicare, women’s health care and taxes for the middle class. Each point is punctuated by a caricature of West in boxing gloves punching out voters. Watch the ad below:
West responded to the ad yesterday, calling it “reprehensible,” and adding that “it cheapens the very real and tragic occurrences of violence against women and seniors.”
Most troubling though are the racial undertones of the ad, which only distracts from the verylegitimatecriticism of West’s extreme voting record in Congress.
The ad also serves as a reminder of the effects that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has had on electoral politics. The rise of outside groups like the American Sunrise PAC has allowed well-funded donors to circumvent campaign finance limits to finance irresponsible ads like this, with little accountability for their contents. West’s Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy has so far offered no comment on the ad other than to say his campaign does not respond to third-party ads, though disclosure forms show that Murphy’s father is the single largest contributor to the PAC responsible for the ad.
Cable news is giving a controversial new ad attacking Romney an unintentional bump in visibility. Priorities USA, the super PAC supporting Barack Obama, released “Understands” on Tuesday in just five battleground states: Florida, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. But the spot, which controversially links the death of the wife of a laid off steelworker to Romney’s actions as CEO of Bain Capital, quickly went national when cable news shows replayed the ad 60 times in two days.
Priorities USA spent slightly more than a million dollars on TV ads this month. “Understands” is its fifth ad in a campaign focusing on Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. It features former GST Steel worker Joe Soptic, who describes how his wife died after they lost their health insurance.
Romney’s campaign called the ad “dishonest” and “contemptible.” Mark Halperin of Time Magazine lamented, “It seems that for some Democrats, given the attacks the President has taken, nothing is out of bounds in going after Romney at this point.”
Sensing controversy, cable news outlets replayed the ad, by ThinkProgress’ estimate, 60 times in two days. Fox News and Fox Business provided the bulk of the coverage, mentioning and playing clips of the ad 26 times since Tuesday. CNN and MSNBC played it 15 and 12 times respectively.
Priorities USA senior strategist Bill Burton told the Huffington Post that “Understands” has been “wildly successful” in focusing the conversation on Romney’s impact on the middle class. And the super PAC is getting far more bang for its buck thanks to the free media coverage.
To put the Priorities USA ad buy in perspective, conservative outside groups spent $144 million on swing state TV ads as of the third week in July. Democratic groups, led by Priorities USA, have spent $20 million.
The success of “Understands” can be read as a lesson to future political campaigns: launch hyperbolic attacks on your opponent, and the media will reward you with millions of dollars in free air time.
This piece has been updated to more accurately reflect Priority USA’s ad expenditures.
The New York Times is reporting the Priorities USA ad has never actually aired on broadcast TV.
FightBigotry.com, a new Super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission this week, makes no bones about its aim. It intends to run an attack ad that it says will hit President Barack Obama for “his disturbing, yet crystal-clear pattern of tacitly defending black racism against white folks before and since being elected president.”
FightBigotry.com’s founder and treasurer is Stephen Marks, a well-known Republican opposition researcher whose 2008 book Confessions of a Political Hitman detailed his work in what he called “the dark side of politics.” In 2000, he launched an attack ad under the misleading name “Americans Against Hate,” attempting to tie Al Gore to controversial comments by Rev. Al Sharpton. Another Marks spot in 2004 attempted to link John Kerry to convicted murderer Willie Horton. He was forced to retract a claim in the book about then-Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), acknowledging that “the information was not accurate.”
A two-minute version of the new spot is already available on the group’s website, though the group promises a one-minute version is forthcoming. In it, he says:
The Obama administration has injected race into the presidential campaign. Obama Attorney General Eric Holder recently said – with no argument from the president – that their white critics are motivated by race. Implying whites are too stupid to have honest disagreements with the president without being racist is in-and-of-itself racist against whites, reinforcing Mr. Obama’s disturbing pattern of tacitly defending black racism. …
Obama’s attorney general said pursuing the New Black Panthers does a great disservice to whose “who risked all, for my people.” So it’s okay for his people to commit racial crimes? In 2009, President Obama defended his friend Henry Louis Gates after a racist altercation with police, telling a white officer he wouldn’t speak to him but would speak to his mama. Mr. Obama’s response? “The Cambridge police acted stupidly.” …
Mr. President, you ran as the candidate of change. But one thing has not changed—your tacit defense of racism against white folks, despite receiving nearly half the white vote to win the presidency.
Watch it here:
Beyond the obvious race-baiting, the ad is riddled with factual errors. Holder’s March 2011 statement was criticizing a Congressman for equating an a 2008 New Black Panther Party incident with the much more violent assaults against voting rights advocates in the 1960s – not about “pursuing the New Black Panthers.”
And what this group terms a “racist altercation with police” involved a Harvard University professor being stopped by police for trying to enter his own home. Even conservative Fox News legal analyst and former New Jersey state Judge Andrew Napolitano called it an “improper arrest.”
In 2008, Marks said that he was “retiring from politics.” Sadly, he’s back to his old tricks — using an Orwellian name to inject racism into yet another campaign through smears.
Have you eaten at White Castle recently? Or caught a movie at Regal Cinemas?
If so, you may be unwittingly helping finance right-wing attack ads.
That’s because many of the country’s most common brands are run by rich conservatives who are using their personal wealth to bankroll outside spending groups that are running attack ads smearing progressives. From Marriott Hotels to Brawny paper towels, and from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Coachella music festival, corporate executives at these organizations have given millions of dollars to groups like Mitt Romney’s Super PAC Restore Our Future.
Some corporations, like Waffle House, give direct donations to conservative attack ad groups like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.
The following list of consumer brands either have leaders who wrote checks to outside right-wing attack ad groups or gave money directly from the corporation. Only entities that gave $25,000 or more were included in this guide.
A new lesbian super PAC called LPAC has launched to support pro-lesbian candidates and play a role in same-sex marriage ballot initiatives. The group will be led by Laura Ricketts, co-owner of the Chicago Cubs, whose father, billionaire Joe Ricketts, has raised sizable funds to oppose President Obama’s re-election. With a modest (by super PAC standards) goal of raising $1 million this year, the effort will support candidates like Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who is hoping to become the first-ever elected openly gay Senator, as well as any other Democrat or Republican who warrants endorsement.
SCHMIDT: Women’s voices get lost a lot and get overshadowed in almost all settings. So I think there’s a real opportunity here to engage women who haven’t been engaged before — for lesbians, in particular, to speak for ourselves about the issues that are important to us and to define those issues in our own words. It’s a chance to really have a seat at the table when these critical issues are being discussed and the policy is being developed. We want to be there. We want to be in the middle of the conversation.[...]
Part of the reason why we’re mobilizing right now is because of what’s been going on in the political conversation and what we’ve been hearing coming from the Republican Party around these issues that’s been so disheartening. We would really hope that we can find some Republican candidates to support. I’m not sure that’s going to happen this cycle.
LPAC has already secured some high-profile supporters, including actress Jane Lynch, sports icon Billie Jean King, LGBT leader Urvashi Vaid, and former Provincetown Banner published Alix Ritchie.
Indiana Republican Senate nominee Richard Mourdock
A new web video by Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), the Republican nominee for Sen. Dick Lugar’s now-open Senate seat this November, is yet another indication of just how wrong the assumptions underling Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Citizens Unitedmajority opinion were. In it the 5-4 majority agreed that “The appearance of influence or access, furthermore, will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy. By definition, an independent expenditure is political speech presented to the electorate that is not coordinated with a candidate.”
Already, “independent” Super PACs have been hiring the same political consulting firms as the candidates they are supporting. Already, the Romney campaign has enlisted Karl Rove, the co-founder of two of the largest pro-Romney outside groups, to participate in a strategy retreat with top-level campaign donors and bundlers. Both are apparently-legal moves that fly in the face of the spirit of non-coordination rules.
Now, Mourdock’s campaign is apparently using yet another loophole. Since the campaign made not directly work with allied “outside” groups, it has posted a four-minutes-and-36-seconds-long video of footage of the candidate online, just in case any outside groups happen to want to use it.
The National Journal describes the video, titled “Indiana Footage,” as “essentially a soundless highlight reel of high-quality, uplifting footage of Mourdock shaking hands with voters, speaking, and driving.”
Watch the spot:
Mourdock’s primary win relied heavily on outside spending. This video is either one of the most boring political ads of all time or a not-so-subtle request to well-heeled outside groups to invest more for the November general election.
But one name has raised flags for campaign finance watchdogs. A Saturday panel on “media insight” will feature American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS co-founder Karl Rove. The Crossroads reportedly plan to spend a stunning $300 million to help Romney defeat President Barack Obama this November, but they are legally prohibited from coordinating this effort with Romney’s campaign.
Back in December, Romney decried the rise of Super PACs like Rove’s American Crossroads, saying they have been a “disaster” for the political system. He said at the time:
Super PACs have to be entirely separate from a campaign and a candidate. I’m not allowed to communicate with a super PAC in any way, shape or form… If we coordinate in any way whatsoever, we go to the big house.
Mary Boyle, vice president for communications at Common Cause, told ThinkProgress that having one of the leaders of an allied Super PAC at at campaign event with major donors “seems to make a mockery of the rule that bans coordination between a super PAC and a candidate.”
Tara Malloy, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center agreed that this presents appearance issues, but would probably not violate any coordination rules. She told ThinkProgress that “the coordination rule is a pretty slim reed between candidates and the SuperPACs that support those candidates. It’s not by any means and airtight barrier between those two.” In order to violate the rules, a candidate would have to have a “substantial discussion” about the Super PAC’s advertising strategies — something Romney and Rove are unlikely to do at this retreat.
“The scandal in Washington,” Malloy observed, “is what is legal, not what’s illegal.” As such, while Romney’s inclusion of Rove at the event open him up to questions of judgment and hypocrisy, is unlikely either will end up in the “big house.”
WASHINGTON, DC — Uber-wealthy Republican donor Foster Friess isn’t content just giving his own money to support Mitt Romney; he’s now lobbying his rich friends to open their checkbooks as well.
Friess, an investment manager worth upwards of $500 million, gained notoriety earlier this year as the moneyman funding Rick Santorum’s super PAC. After Santorum dropped out, Friess (along with other wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson) switched to supporting Romney’s presidential campaign.
ThinkProgress and TPM’s Benjy Sarlin ran into Friess at the Faith & Freedom Conference over the weekend and asked what his plans were going forward. After bemoaning the fact that big Republican donors hadn’t done more to coordinate resources and message before, Friess said he had now “reached out to a number of potential donors” about supporting Romney’s super PAC. He declined to name names, leaving it at the fact that they’re “big donors.”
SARLIN: Now that the general election is underway, do you keep in touch with the other big donors, Sheldon Adelson, Bob Perry, and the people who are now doing the general election? Do you guys have a friendly, encouraging society?
FRIESS: There should be more of that. I find when I’ve done certain projects like I put up a little video and I found four other people putting up the same message. Well we could’ve pooled our resources and done a much better, more professional than our somewhat-amateurish video. I wish that would happen more but it doesn’t and it should.
SARLIN: Have you reached out to any of the other big donors about trying to work together a little more?
FRIESS: I’ve reached out to a number of potential donors who aren’t involved so much before to help Gov. Romney with his Restore Our Future PAC and to try to encourage some of the same things for Gov. Romney as I did for Rick Santorum.
Thanks in large part to extremely wealthy conservatives like Friess, Republican-aligned groups are far outpacing those supporting Democrats. In fact, a single casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, just gave $10 million to Romney’s super PAC and has said he’s willing to spend a “limitless” amount of money to defeat President Obama in the fall.
Conservative Super PACs Outspend Liberal Super PACs 7.7 to 1 |
That’s according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute for Money in State Politics. As ThinkProgress has documented, the five Republican justices’ decision in Citizens United has been a bonanza for these justices’ fellow Republicans, turning a moderate Democratic advantage in outside group spending into a massive advantage for Republicans. Although there is a small chance one of the Court’s Republicans could reverse course and roll back Citizens United in a pending case, the Court’s calendar all but ensures that the Republican justices’ Citizens United decision will be around at least long enough to boost Republican donors’ efforts to put Mitt Romney in the White House.