Conservative outside ads spin Obama’s Sandy response

Obama, seen here at the Red Cross headquarters discussing disaster relief, has been widely praised for his response to Hurricane Sandy.

With President Barack Obama earning high marks on his response to Hurricane Sandy, conservative outside spending groups and Republicans are seeking to contrast it with charges that he dropped the ball in Benghazi.

Americans for Limited Government’s “Obama Campaign Has Its ‘Perfect Storm’” and Campaign for American Values PAC’s “Obama Has Left Americans Behind” follow the line of attack launched by Michael Brown, the director of FEMA under George W. Bush, who was widely criticized for botching the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

While the new ads do not go quite as far as Brown, who charged the president with acting too quickly on the response to Sandy, they do capitalize on his juxtaposition of the president’s response to Sandy and his response to the terrorist attack on the American consulate in Libya.

Obama was “openly working with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during hurricane recovery,” the ALG ad begins. Christie, a Republican with presidential aspirations, heaped praise on the president for his response, which was seen as a hit to GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

“Obama didn’t react to terrorist attacks in Libya the same way he reacted to Sandy,” cursive text on the screen continues. “The Obama admin. [sic] tried to blame the attack on a movie released on YouTube. Maybe they can try to blame Hurricane Sandy on one of those Al Gore movies.”

A movie poster from “The Day After Tomorrow,” a high-budget, special-effects driven disaster film from 2004, is shown in the background.

The ad from Campaign for American Values PAC, headed by conservative evangelical activist Gary Bauer, shows a clip of Obama speaking after the hurricane saying, “We pull together and we leave nobody behind.”

“Sadly, Mr. President,” the narrator says, “Your administration did leave somebody behind.”

The ad flashes photos of the four Americans killed in the Benghazi attacks, who reportedly had requested and were denied additional security in the days before the attack.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he did not have adequate information to “put forces at risk in that situation.” 

While conservatives are using Hurricane Sandy to criticize Obama’s response to past disasters, Democrats are using it to criticize Romney for past statements about wanting to eliminate the federal disaster response agency.

In the wake of Sandy, Romney released a statement changing his tune. He said that as president, he would “ensure FEMA has the funding it needs to fulfill its mission,” though he reiterated his intent to direct “maximum resources” to state and local first responders.

Americans for Limited Government, a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization that functions like a super PAC but is not required to disclose its donors, has not reported any campaign spending to the Federal Election Commission, though it has produced at least a dozen online videos opposing Obama and other Democrats.

The Campaign for American Values PAC, a super PAC, has reported spending $575,000 opposing Obama and supporting Romney. Its biggest donor is Texas-based “Corporate Land Management,” which contributed $600,000. Mother Jones traced the generically named corporation to Tim Horner, the president of a jewelry company that advocates Christian values.

In other outside spending news:

  • Fair Share Action, a liberal super PAC, reported spending $714,000 supporting Obama, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who is running for U.S. Senate. The super PAC is funded by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Environment America. It also in-kind from its non-disclosing sister nonprofit, Fair Share Alliance and has received nearly a half-million from millionaire software entrepreneur Tim Gill and his LGBT advocacy group, Gill Action Fund.
     
  • Conservative nonprofit Americans for Job Security reported spending $2.5 million opposing Obama.
     
  • The conservative Now or Never super PAC reported spending $1.8 millionsupporting Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri, and opposing Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Rep. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin.
     
  • Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit, reported spending $1.6 million supporting Romney and opposing Heitkamp and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in the state. It released “Walk Away,” a Spanish-language ad opposing Obama.
     
  • Its sister super PAC American Crossroads released “Debate” and “China” opposing Obama.
     
  • Independence USA PAC, the bipartisan super PAC of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reported spending $1.3 million supporting Connecticut state Sen. Andrew Roraback, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the state’s 5th District, as well as in support of Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill. It also paid for direct mail ads opposing Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., and Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif.
     
  • Pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future reported spending $1 million on ads opposing Obama and supporting Romney.
     
  • Ending Spending, a conservative nonprofit funded and run by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, released “Past Due” opposing Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who is running for U.S. Senate. Its sister super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund, reported spending $920,000

Who paid for that political ad? You might be surprised by the answer. Email us and we will try to find out. Describe the advertisement — was it mean or nice? Will it affect your vote? When and where did it run and what were the names of the candidates? And PLEASE tell us what the disclaimer at the end says, and we will check it out.

About the author

Rachael Marcus is a reporter with the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, non-partisan independent investigative news outlet, which contributes campaign finance coverage to Marketplace. For more of their reporting on money and politics go to publicintegrity.org.

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