The Week In Conservative Attack Ads

It’s no surprise that conservative outside groups are ramping up their ad spending as November approaches. Counting spots released last Friday afternoon, we fact-checked 36 conservative attack ads this week, our highest one-week tally yet. The large total was driven by an increased focus on House races, which accounted for two-thirds of the ads we answered.

Once again, Karl Rove’s groups dominated the airwaves. As it does most weeks, American Crossroads issued a new attack on President Obama, this one attempting to undermine clear signs that the economy is picking up. Meanwhile, Crossroads GPS targeted eight House candidates go to along with six Senate candidates, which notably included Maine independent Angus King.

Senate Tag Team

Two hotly contested Senate contests featured multiple groups piling on the Democratic candidates, each emphasizing different lines of attack.

In Virginia, former Gov. Tim Kaine was the subject of ads from Crossroads GPS, American Commitment, and Independence Virginia PAC. The ad from American Commitment, which distorted Kaine’s record on coal, was the group’s first since the summer. The group does not disclose its donors, but its president is Phil Kerpen, who was previously a vice president at the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. Independence Virginia PAC has received $1 million this year from Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, a major funder of both American Crossroads and Restore Our Future.

Rep. Joe Donnelly, who is running to replace outgoing Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar (R), was targeted by Crossroads GPS and Club for Growth, whose effort to paint the moderate congressman as fiscally reckless was especially futile. The Club for Growth spot hits Donnelly for 11 different votes, listing obscure provisions in appropriations bills he supported. In each case, however, Donnelly voted along with large bipartisan majorities of more than 300 representatives.

ATR Embraces Medicare Falsehoods

After the Crossroads groups, the most prolific conservative group in the last seven days was Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, which issued ads in seven House races. Four of the ads were basically identical, targeting two challengers and two incumbents over the Affordable Care Act. Predictably, ATR misrepresented the health care law as a “middle-class tax,” but the anti-tax group put just as much weight on alleged Medicare cuts and “unelected bureaucrats with the power to cut further.” Of course, those are common conservative distortions of the Affordable Care Act’s impact on Medicare. It’s also worth noting that one of ATR’s targets, Rep. John Barrow (D-GA), actually voted against the law, but he opposes full repeal because he wants to protect its most popular provisions.