Super PACs Pour Big Money Into Truth-Twisting South Carolina Ads

Jan 19, 2012 6:00am

In a night-and-day about-face from the shadowy “King of Bain” ads released earlier this month, the pro-Gingrich Super PAC opted instead for a more light-hearted approach to discrediting Mitt Romney on Wednesday.

The latest ad from Winning Our Future, a Super PAC that supports but does not coordinate with Newt Gingrich, seeks to paint Mitt Romney as both a flip-flopper and President Obama’s political twin.

“I agreed with Governor Romney on many things,” a cartoonified Obama says facing off against Romney from a general election-style debate podium. “But this presidential candidate Romney, I don’t even know the guy. Then again, he doesn’t seem to know himself.”

The 60-second spot is the latest episode in Newt v. Mitt Super PAC ad battle that has dominated the airwaves beginning in Iowa, moving through New Hampshire and now erupting in South Carolina.

Over the past two weeks the two Super PACs have spent a combined $3.8 million on advertising in the Palmetto State. That’s nearly three times the amount the Romney and Gingrich campaigns have spent.

And while ads that come directly from the Romney and Gingrich campaigns are, more often than not, positive, the commercials put out by their supporting Super PACs are almost always negative.

The pro-Gingrich Super PAC has 10 ads posted online, five of which attack Romney.

Of the nine ads Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney Super PAC, has posted online, six attack Gingrich, two go after Rick Santorum and only one is a positive ad supporting Romney.

Both PACs have been attacked for airing ads that “contain gross inaccuracies,” as Gingrich put it.

For example, the latest anti-Gingrich ad from the pro-Romney Super PAC claims the former House speaker co-sponsored a bill with Democratic House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi that supported China’s one-child policy, a claim that Politifact found to be completely false.

The bill cited in the ad did give funds to the United Nations Population Fund, which promotes family planning in developing countries, but included a provision that specifically prevented those funds from being spent to support China’s one-child policy.

Both Romney and Gingrich have called for any inaccurate ads to be taken off the air, but that hasn’t stopped a pro-Gingrich Super PAC from purchasing an anti-Romney documentary labeling Romney a “corporate raider” who is “more ruthless than Wall Street.”

The ads, which aired in both 1-minute and 30-second spots in South Carolina, accuse Romney of being responsible for closing four companies, and laying off workers in “nearly every U.S. state.” But three of the highlighted companies did not go bankrupt until years after Romney left Bain.

In interviews with the Wall Street Journal, three employees interviewed in the film said they actually got raises while Romney was at the reins. “It wasn’t true,” said Tracy Jones, referring to the allegations in the film. Jones is a former employee at the washing machine manufacturer UniMac, which Bain took over for a short period.

Jones said “Bain wasn’t even a topic” during her interview with filmmakers.

“That ad is an ad that no respectable political consultant would ever run,” said Mike Hudome, the president of MH Media who produced ads for John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “The Gingrich Super PAC bought it and they should be ashamed of themselves.”

But while the candidates constantly disavow the sometimes nasty and often truth-twisting ads produced by their respective Super PACs, they are banned by federal law from forcing the independent groups to remove or revise their attacks, a move that would be considered “coordination.”

Instead, it is up to the broadcast stations running the ads to determine if they are factual and adequately sourced before the station agrees to air them, said former Federal Elections Commission Chairman Michael Toner.

If a candidate believes the ad is untrue, they can request that the station take it down or, in rare cases, file libel, slander or defamation suits. But it is highly unlikely those civil lawsuits would be resolved before the election, Toner said.

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