Campaign Finance

Attack ads fly on the prairie

Rachael Marcus Aug 17, 2012

In a one-two-punch, the anonymously funded group Crossroads GPS is back with a new ad — the second in as many weeks — hitting Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic contender for U.S. Senate in North Dakota.

Forgot” comes a week after Crossroads GPS voluntarily pulled another Heitkamp attack ad for what a spokesman called “content issues.” The ad accused Heitkamp of spending taxpayer dollars on private airplanes when she was attorney general of the state, a claim Heitkamp denounced as “completely false.” The planes were, in fact, donated to North Dakota in 1993 by the Department of Defense.

Heitkamp faces Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad.

The new ad accuses Heitkamp of establishing a pay-to-play relationship with an out-of-state trial lawyer when she was attorney general, a position she held from 1993 through 2000. Heitkamp tapped Jack McConnell, Jr., a Rhode Island attorney, to help the state implement its settlement in the Big Tobacco lawsuit of the 1990s, in which 46 attorneys general, including Heitkamp, sued major tobacco companies to recover tobacco-related health care costs.

The ad misleadingly suggests the firm got paid millions from the state’s coffers, when, in fact, the attorney’s fees came via the settlement, paid by the tobacco companies, according to Forum, a North-Dakota based media company.

Forum’s fact-check found that many of the claims in the ad are not completely true.

“Forgot” cost $162,000, according to a press release from Crossroads GPS, and is slated to run statewide for one week.

Heitkamp fought back immediately after the ad’s release, calling the claims “absolutely not true,” the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Heitkamp will get some support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has its own ads in the works. Last week, the DSCC reported spending more than $180,000 in support of Heitkamp’s campaign, records show.

The ad Crossroads GPS pulled last week began running as an amended version August 10. The new version is still “grossly misleading,” according to

Crossroads GPS is a “social welfare” nonprofit organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code and is not required to publicly disclose its donors. Co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, Crossroads GPS is affiliated with the super PAC American Crossroads.

In other outside spending news:

  • Pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future spent $10.1 million on ads opposing President Barack Obama. This is the super PAC’s largest single buy ever. It goes towards airing “Another Month,” which will air in 11 battleground states, according to Mother Jones.
  • Pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action spent $1.1 million on TV ads opposing Romney.
  • Conservative nonprofit Americans for Prosperity spent $7.5 million on anti-Obama ads “Still Believe” and “Fighting For.” On Thursday, the group also released “Stop Wasteful Spending,” an ad opposing Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who is running for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin against newly minted GOP nominee Tommy Thompson.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released an ad attacking the record of Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich., on Medicare. The fishing-themed ad is the first Democratic ad to attack House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan since he was tapped as Romney’s running mate, according to Politico.
  • Democratic nonprofit Patriot Majority USA’s ad “Know” criticizes Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., for his votes on Medicare and taxes.
  • Republican super PAC Friends of the Majority spent $209,000 opposing Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., who faces fellow GOP Rep. Ben Quayle in an August 28 primary. According to documents filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission, one of the super PAC’s top donors is Corinne Quayle, Ben’s sister. Wyoming businessman and GOP super donor Foster Friess has also given $25,000 to the group. Slightly more than half of the $475,500 that the super PAC has raised has come from out-of-state donors, a Center for Public Integrity analysis found.
  • New super PACs: Animal rights activist Julie Caramante registered four more anti-horse slaughter super PACs, bringing the total to 45 state horse super PACs; Political Action Cartoons in Washington, D.C., also registered as a super PAC.

Michael Beckel contributed to this report.

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