Virginia politics is for haters, not lovers

An onslaught of ads from outside spenders hit Virginia Wednesday, attacking both the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, former Gov. Tim Kaine, and the Republican candidate, former Sen. George Allen.

The closely watched Virginia Senate race attracted an advertising deluge by some of the 2012 election’s biggest outside spending groups Wednesday — five ads in 24 hours.

The election pits former U.S. Sen. George Allen, a Republican, against former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine to decide who will replace U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, who is not running for re-election.

The race, which has already seen $4.7 million in outside spending, drew five new ads paid for by super-heavyweights the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS, Majority PAC and the League of Conservation Voters.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a nonprofit business trade association, spent $276,000 on an anti-Kaine ad Wednesday that suggests he favors “union bosses” over Virginia jobs. (The Chamber released a similar ad the same day attacking Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on the same front).

Among seven new ads released by Crossroads GPS Wednesday, the conservative nonprofit focused two on criticizing Kaine. “Cost” hits Kaine for “not putting Virginia first” by voting to cut back spending on defense, an industry that employs many Virginians. “Pledged” criticizes Kaine for “higher taxes, reckless spending (and) skyrocketing tuition.”

One ad cost $1 million, according to a Federal Election Commission report, and the other has a price tag of $550,000 according to The Hill.

On the Democratic side, the Democratic super PAC Majority PAC and the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters attacked Kaine’s opponent.

Worked for them,” which was jointly produced by the two, criticizes Allen’s relationship with oil and gas companies. “Wrong,” paid for by Majority PAC, criticizes Allen for supporting tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs.

The Chamber, Crossroads GPS and the League of Conservation Voters are nonprofit organizations and are not required to reveal their donors to the public.

Majority PAC is what’s known as a “super PAC,” and does disclose its donors. Among its top funders are super donor Fred Eychaner of NewsWeb Corp., James Simons of Euclidean Capital and union the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Virginia is the third most expensive outside-spending Senate race in the country, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Chamber, Majority PAC and Crossroads GPS, along with its sister super PAC American Crossroads, have been the top outside spenders.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan group tracking elections spending in the state, Richard Gilliam is Virginia’s top super PAC donor, having given $750,000 to American Crossroads and the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future. Gilliam is the founder of Cumberland Resources Corp., a private coal mining company in Virginia.

State super PACs in Virginia have also been active. Top donors to state super PACs include Dominion, an electric utility company, with $250,000 to groups supporting of Allen, and the Virginia affiliates of the AFL-CIO with $85,000 to groups supporting Kaine.

In other outside spending news:

  • In addition to the Virginia anti-Kaine ads “Cost” and “Pledged,” Crossroads GPS introduced ads in five other states at a total cost of $4.7 million, according to The Hill:

No Dice” opposes Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Doing” opposes Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Cost You” opposes Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

With a T” opposes Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for U.S. Senate in that state.

Business” capitalizes on the investigation into alleged corruption by Sen. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is running for re-election.

  • Also in Nevada, Patriot Majority USA, a Democratic nonprofit, spent $239,000 on “Know,” an ad opposing Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, who is challenging Berkley.
  • Many of Crossroads GPS’s ads urge voters to “support the New Majority Agenda,” the group’s conservative platform of “pro-growth tax policy, a renewed commitment to the power of free enterprise, and restrained spending.” The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s “The Truth about Karl Rove’s ‘New Majority Agenda’” criticizes the “dangerous” platform as well as Crossroads GPS’s lack of transparency — as a nonprofit, it isn’t required to disclose its donors.
  • Too Extreme for the Senate,” from the National Republican Senatorial Committee attacks Baldwin for what the party calls her liberal positions on health care reform and other issues.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wasted no time in putting up a stitched-together mini-video of public statements aimed at painting him as an extremist, called “Meet Tea Party Republican Andrew Roraback.” Roraback won Tuesday’s primary to become the GOP nominee for U.S. House in Connecticut’s 5th district.
  • Achievement,” an ad from the Republican National Committee, paints the president as a threat to Medicare, a program that is dear to the hearts of Democrats everywhere. The ad quotes the campaign, out of context, referring to the “$700 billion cuts in Medicare the president has achieved” as part of his health care plan.
  • The Conservative Majority Fund spent more than $416,000 on anti-Obama phone calls to voters on Tuesday.
  • Anger and Division” from the Republican National Committee highlights some of most controversial comments from the Democrat presidential camp — Vice President Joe Biden’s comment about putting “y’all back in chains,” super PAC Priorities USA Action’s ad that implies Romney and Bain Capital were responsible for a woman’s death from cancer and others.
  • New super PACs: Americans for Gary Johnson in Aventura, Fla., and nine more horse protection super PACs, bringing the total to 41, all headed by animal rights activist Julie Caramante.

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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