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Karl Rove’s Org Makes “Issue Ads” That Never Mention the Issue in Question

Karl Rove’s money-laundering shop has ordered up a series of ads attacking Democratic Senate candidates. But despite them clearly being electorally focused, Rove’s team tries to make them “issue ads” by adding a bill unrelated to the spots in the end plate.

You can see all four ads, backed by “American Crossroads,” the Rove/Ed Gillespie outfit designed mainly to attract donors who want no part of the RNC, here. Two of them attack sitting Senators, Harry Reid and Michael Bennet. But while the spots clearly are generic, attacking the stimulus package and various studies to fund ant research and the effects of cocaine on monkeys (This is on the “McCain principle” that any funding involving animals is necessary funny and therefore wasteful), at the end of the spots, a billboard comes up at the end requesting the viewer to call their Senator and tell them to “vote no on S.Amdt 4594.”

Surely, every viewer watching this ad will know exactly what S.Amdt. 4594 is all about. But in case you don’t, it happens to be the small business lending bill, scheduled for a vote when the Senate returns from recess on September 13.

Nowhere in this ad does it mention the small business lending bill, or small businesses in general. The line right above “vote no on S.Amdt 4594” says “Nevada needs jobs, not more spending.” The small business lending bill, which is fully paid for, is designed to provide credit to small businesses so they can expand their operations. I don’t think it’s bound to be particularly effective, the Independent Community Bankers of America estimated that it would create 500,000 jobs.

You don’t have to believe them, but my central point is a bit different. This doesn’t come close to being an “issue ad,” in any reasonable sense of the term. Rove’s group is giving the impression of one to avoid disclosure and probably keep the tax-exempt status of Crossroads GPS, the umbrella organization supplying the ads.

The fact that the FEC is basically non-functional at the moment and the changes to the law in the Citizens United decision make it almost impossible to stop this kind of clear fudging. This is the post-Citizens United future, full of very rich interests pretending to care about issues and not raw power.

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David Dayen

David Dayen