Karl Rove-linked dark money group smears Democrat, praises Republican who cast same vote

One Nation is talking out of both sides of its mouth.

Anti-Heitkamp attack ad by One Nation
Anti-Heitkamp attack ad by One Nation. CREDIT: YouTube screenshot.

A pro-GOP dark money group tied to Karl Rove posted a new attack ad on Tuesday, accusing Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) of voting against “billions of dollars in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs” and breaking her promise to treat veterans appropriately. To back-up this claim, they note that she twice voted against a 2016 short-term continuing resolution.

But the same group has been running ads on television, radio, and online in support of Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), praising him for his heroic work in support of veterans. These ads neglect to mention that he too twice voted against that 2016 appropriation.

The “issue ads” — spots that are clearly designed to help elect favored candidates but circumvent election disclosure laws by masquerading as being about public policy — are being run by One Nation, a tax-exempt “social welfare” organization.


The anti-Heitkamp spot features a video of the North Dakota Democrat in January 2016 speaking in support of care for American veterans. A narrator, over ominous music, then claims, “just months later, Heidi Heitkamp voted against billions of dollars in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, against funding for critical care for veterans, and against construction of military housing.” In small print, the ad cites five votes cast by Heitkamp that year. Two of those votes were September 2016 votes against H.R.5325, the Continuing Appropriations and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, and Zika Response and Preparedness Act. Among the 25 other Senators voting against the bill were Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Heller.

Still, One Nation’s current “veterans healthcare push in Nevada” has already included running at least three positive ads presenting Heller as a pro-veteran hero. “Many elected officials looked the other way” while veterans were forced to wait for care, one spot claims, but  “Senator Heller got to work. He changed the law, cutting wait time for our veterans.” Another praises him for “increasing benefits for disabled vets and their families and giving veterans more control over their healthcare decisions.”

The organization did not immediately respond to questions about these contradictions.

After the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling opened the floodgates for outside groups to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns, Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie, and a group of Republican operatives created American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. Over the next several elections, they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Republicans. One of their 2012 ads falsely accused Heitkamp of spending “taxpayer dollars to buy private planes.”


In recent years, those operatives have largely migrated their efforts to One Nation. Steven Law, a former chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), is president and CEO of One Nation and of the Crossroads groups. They describe themselves as “an issue advocacy organization dedicated to promoting commonsense legislative solutions.”

Last week, the One Nation aborted a $750,000 campaign attacking Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for being weak on immigration. That spot — still on the group’s YouTube page — criticized him for voting for a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill as a vote for “amnesty for illegal immigrants.” At the time, Steven Law himself actively campaigned for similar legislation, supporting a “permanent legal status” for undocumented immigrants after they paid a fine.

Amusingly, the group posted a “fact-check” from the right-wing Daily Caller supporting the veracity of the anti-Manchin ad on its website with the headline “One Nation Ad on Manchin Border Wall Opposition Rated ‘True’.”