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Misleading ad seeks to scare voters

The ad from Secure America Now criticizes Obama for ending the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" on terrorism suspects.

 “You know,” she says, closing her laptop and shaking her head, “It seems these days, not a single one of us steps on a train, boards an airplane, attends a concert or a sporting event that doesn’t have at least a fleeting concern that terror could strike.”

It sounds like this suburban woman is speaking in the days after 9/11. And in fact, footage of the planes hitting the twin towers does flash across the screen.

But the ad, from the nonprofit Secure America Now, was released just this week. “Are We Safer Now? ”blasts President Barack Obama for undermining American security in a litany of ways, including  wanting to close Guantanamo Bay (which he didn’t), ending “enhanced interrogation techniques” and closing the CIA’s “black sites,” secretive prisons overseas outside America’s legal jurisdiction.

The ad ends with footage of burning cars, burning buildings, and then — an explosion.

Reminiscent of former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice’s statement, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” the fear-mongering ad doesn’t mention Mitt Romney, Obama’s November opponent for president. Instead, it calls on viewers to visit its “Are We Safer?” website so you can “learn the facts.”

The ad is rife with false and misleading statements. Among the most egregious:

  • Israel: Obama has not “all but abandoned Israel,” as the ad claims, though he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had their differences.
  • Iran: Iran does not have a “nuclear bomb,” as the ad insinuates, nor does it have intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States, though it does have an active missile development program.
  • Apologies: The ad hits Obama for being an apologist for America and not believing in American exceptionalism. This has been a common theme among conservatives. But according to a Washington Post analysis, the “apologies” commonly cited are not actually apologies when looked at in full. Instead, they are statements in which Obama was trying to distance himself from the former administration, a common tactic when the presidency shifts parties.
  • Black sites: While the CIA’s network has been dismantled, secret prisons overseas remain.  Last April, the Associated Press reported there are as many as 20 “temporary” secret prisons in Afghanistan.

Secure America Now’s website claims it has a membership of 2 million “national security activists” from all over the political spectrum who “support policies that will protect our nation against terrorist infiltration, attack, and capitulation to our enemies.”

The group was founded in 2011 by pollsters John McLaughlin and Pat Caddell according to the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank.

McLaughlin and Caddell performed several much-criticized surveys for the group. One poll showed Obama was losing support among Jewish voters. The Washington Post called the poll “laughably bogus” for its skewed sample and leading questions. Another, which showed Americans identifying Iran as a top security threat, was also criticized for its poor polling techniques by Politco and Salon.

Because of its status as a nonprofit corporation, Secure America Now is not required to reveal its donors, nor has it reported how much it is spending on the ad.

Secure America Now also released an ad in early July, which Politifact called “mostly false” for its assertions that, once again, Obama apologized for America and showed weakness toward Iran.

In other outside spending news:

  • Pro-Ron Paul super PAC, Endorse Liberty, has clearly shifted to congressional races. It spent $49,000 on online ads supporting Republican U.S. House candidates Jessica Puente Bradshaw and Steve Stockman in Texas, along with Ted Cruz, the tea party candidate who won Tuesday’s GOP Senate runoff in Texas.
  • Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit, spent $11 million on its new ad “News,” which opposes Obama and criticizes the pace of the economic recovery. It will air in nine swing states (Florida, Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia) for 10 days.
  • Prosperity for Michigan, a super PAC supporting Clark Durant in the GOP U.S. Senate primary in Michigan, spent $105,000 on TV ads in favor of Durant, who founded a group of charter and independent schools in inner-city Detroit.
  • The Republican Jewish Coalition, a conservative Jewish nonprofit organization, released “Backtrack” on Tuesday, dealing with Obama’s statements on Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is part of their $6.5 million “Buyer’s Remorse” campaign.
  • Florida-based Conservative Values Project spent $100,000 supporting Henry “Trey” Radel III, a Republican candidate for U.S. House from Florida’s 14th District. Radel, a tea party favorite, is running for the seat being vacated by Rep. Connie Mack, who has endorsed Radel.
  • Service Employees International Union PEA, one of the union’s super PACs, reported yesterday spending $1.4 million on new ads supporting seven Democratic congressional candidates and Obama on July 29. The money paid for staffers’ salaries and canvass-related expenses, according to the FEC report.
  • SEIU COPE, another of the union’s super PACs, reported spending $124,000 on canvass literature and TV ad buys in support of Obama and Democratic candidates Tammy Baldwin, who is running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, and Christie Vilsack, who is running for U.S. House in Iowa’s 4th District.
  • The Federal Election Commission reported the organization of four new super PACs: Fightin’ 9th PAC in Newport, Va., Working for Working Americans (United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners) in Las Vegas, Zombies of Tomorrow in Orlando, Fla., and Defeat Romney 2012 in New Orleans.

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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