The Week In Conservative Attack Ads

Earlier this week, Crossroads GPS made the unusual decision to pull its support from a competitive Senate race, dropping planned ads attacking Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill after tasteless comments on “legitimate rape” from her Republican opponent, Todd Akin, made headlines. The group’s multi-million-dollar assault on the airwaves continued across other states, however. Of the 13 ads we fact-checked this week, Crossroads GPS was responsible for five of them, attacking Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Bill Nelson in Florida, Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, and Jon Tester in Montana. We also looked at three ads from Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, three from the American Future Fundone from the National Federation of Independent Business, and one from pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.Most of the spots mentioned the Affordable Care Act, with many misrepresenting the facts to sell support for the law as support for a budget-busting behemoth. All three American Future Fund ads referred to the “$2 trillion health care law,” a willful distortion that counts the law’s costs but none of the savings to obscure the fact that the law reduces the deficit. Five of the ads (three from Crossroads GPS, one from AFP, and one from Restore Our Future) spread misinformation about the “failed” or “wasteful” stimulus, which actually helped save the economy from an even deeper recession.

Focus On Florida

This week showed particularly heavy interest in the Florida Senate race between Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Connie Mack. Three separate conservative outside groups targeted the Sunshine State, each ad taking a different tack. Crossroads GPS took advantage of public confusion over the Affordable Care Act’s impact on Medicare, dishonestly suggesting to Florida’s seniors that their benefits will be cut and they’ll lose control of their health care decisions. American Future Fund focused on the national debt, though it also mentioned the health care law and threw in a gratuitous line calling for Nelson to “protect seniors.” NFIB, a business group that received $3.7 million from Crossroads GPS in 2010, took a more personal approach, highlighting a Florida business owner who claimed that a “conglomeration” of regulations were impairing his businesses’ ability to grow.

Spotlight: American Future Fund

Although Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the Koch-linked Americans for Prosperity are fairly well-known, three of this week’s ads came from the murkier American Future Fund, a group that claims to have spent around $25 million on the 2010 elections.

AFF’s efforts are interlaced with those of other top conservative players through its participation in the Rove-headed Weaver Terrace Group strategy meetings and through its funding. The group’s biggest known donor is the mysterious Center to Protect Patient Rights, which also gave generously to other conservative ad-makers like Americans for Prosperity and the 60 Plus Association, and is run by Koch operative Sean Noble, according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition, it received about $375,000 in seed money from Republican donor Bruce Rastetter, who is connected to the Koch brothers through an ethanol production company whose growth he oversaw before selling its production facilities to Koch Industries.