Campaign Finance

Let the debate spin begin

Rachael Marcus Oct 4, 2012

Within hours of the close of the first presidential debate Wednesday night, the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century and the Republican National Committee fired off spin reports.

The RNC’s “Smirk” shows clips edited together of GOP nominee Mitt Romney criticizing President Barack Obama on the deficit, middle class income, health care and other issues while the camera zooms in on Obama looking down at his notes with his lips pursed and the corners of his mouth slightly turned up.

Obama was accused of smugness during a 2008 debate against his then-opponent, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the Romney team alluded to The New York Times last week that Romney’s strategy included “luring the president into appearing smug.”

American Bridge 21st Century got two Web videos out after the debate: “Not So Fast: Romney’s Own Solyndra” and “I Left My Heart in Grand Cayman.”

The first shows a clip from the debate of Romney criticizing Obama for providing solar and wind energy companies with $90 billion in tax breaks, which came as Department of Energy loans. The failure of one loan recipient, solar company Solyndra, caused a scandal when it was reported that the company’s investors were shown to have connections to the agency and the Obama campaign.

The video cuts to news reports that Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, also provided government loans to firms run by his campaign donors that later went bankrupt. The Boston Herald broke the story in December 2011.

The second video shows a clip of Romney telling Obama, “The place you put your money makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is.” Then the video makes the point that Romney has money in Swiss bank accounts and the Cayman Islands.

The video ends with Romney’s comment to debate moderator Jim Lehrer, a veteran PBS news anchor, about ending government support to PBS even though, according to him, “I like PBS, I love Big Bird.”

Big Bird appears on screen. Then he is crushed by an anvil in a puff of yellow feathers.

The presidential race thus far has attracted a total $367.4 million in outside spending, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

In the week before the debate, $28.4 million in outside spending went to influence the presidential race, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity of Federal Election Commission. Of that, more than $21 million went toward opposing Obama.

The biggest spender was the conservative super PAC American Crossroads, which put $11.5 million into ads opposing Obama and supporting Romney in the week before the debate. The RNC was a distant second with $3.7 million. The top five outside spenders in the presidential election last week were Republican leaning groups. The liberal super PAC, Florida Freedom PAC, came in 6th with $1.1 million.

In other outside spending news:

  • American Crossroads reported spending $11.4 million in ads opposing Obama on Oct. 2, plus an additional $110,000 on pro-Romney ads. The super PAC also spent $2 million on ads opposing the re-election of Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and $120,000 on Senate races in OhioNevada and Wisconsin. The super PAC released “Truth,” opposing Obama, on Wednesday. 
  • Its sister nonprofit, Crossroads GPS, spent another almost $979,000 on ads designed to oppose Obama’s campaign. It also spent $2.4 million opposing Sen.Jon Tester, D-Mont., and former Virginia governor and Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine as well as supporting Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., who is running for U.S. Senate. 
  • SEIU PEA Federal, the super PAC of the Service Employees International Union, reported spending nearly $2.1 million supporting Obama and other Democrats. Its regular political action committee, SEIU COPE, spent another$757,000 on the presidential, Senate and House races across the country. It released a Spanish-language ad opposing Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., yesterday.
  • American Future Fund, a conservative nonprofit, spent $940,000 on ads opposing Obama, former Democratic Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz. Sinema is running for U.S. House in Arizona’s 9th District, and Kirkpatrick is running for U.S. House in Arizona’s 1st District. Three new ads from AFF attack the president: “Pop-Up Video” provides pop-up commentary on an Obama campaign video; “Decision” criticizes government spending under Obama; and “Security” criticizes his response to the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya.
  • The conservative Republican Jewish Coalition reported spending $2 million on ads opposing Obama.
  • Majority PAC, a super PAC backing Democrats for U.S. Senate, reported spending $1 million on Senate races in New Jersey, Arizona and Wisconsin.
  • Florida Freedom PAC, a liberal super PAC, reported spending $1.3 million in support of Obama, attorney Joe Garcia, the Democrat running for U.S. House in Florida’s 26th District, and Patrick Murphy, a Democrat and the president of an environmental cleanup company, who is running in Florida’s 18th District.
  • The National Association of Realtors Political Action Committee reported spending $480,000 in support of Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif. 
  • Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative nonprofit founded by Grover Norquist, released “Simple Question, Simple Choice,” an ad opposing Rep. Mark Critz, D-Pa., and supporting his challenger, Republican lawyer Keith Rothfus, in the state’s 12th District.
  • The conservative super PAC National Horizon targets Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., with its new ad “Job Killer.”

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.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.