Key feature of GOP midterm ads: Half-truths and misleading claims


HR King
May 29, 2001
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) voted to send pandemic relief checks to Americans. Nearly $1 million worth of ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee described it as putting money into the pockets of criminals, including the Boston Marathon bomber.

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) voted for a sweeping health-care, climate and deficit-cutting law. In September, Scott Baugh, her opponent, began running digital ads saying the congresswoman voted to hire “87,000 new IRS agents to audit middle-income families and small businesses.”

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor, secured the endorsement of Planned Parenthood. Kari Lake, the Republican nominee, and the Yuma County Republican Party spun that into ads dubiously claiming that Hobbs was “endorsed by radical groups that want to defund our police.” Hobbs has said the exact opposite, with calls for “boosting funding for sheriffs and local law enforcement.”


Campaign ads have always had a loose association with the nuances of governance. But as the midterm elections tighten into dozens of battlegrounds across the country, a number of GOP ads are showing a breathtaking disregard for accuracy and clarity, with Republican candidates and their allies twisting tangential elements into baseless or misleading claims.
Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency erased many of the traditional campaign guardrails in the GOP as Republicans adopted his approach of pushing fact-free arguments.
Ken Frydman, who worked on Rudy Giuliani’s 1993 campaign for New York mayor and now runs his own communications firm, said, “In a post-truth age of Trump, candidates for office may feel more comfortable in exaggerating their records and inaccurately attacking their opponents.” Frydman said he always opposed Trump’s entry into politics “because I knew all about Trump since the 1980s.”

Jason Reifler, a political science professor who taught in Georgia and Illinois before joining the faculty at the University of Exeter in Britain, said Trump introduced a whole new level of lying in politics.
After reviewing several ads at The Washington Post’s request, he said they are “the sort of kernel-of-truth pushing the boundaries of what you can get away with” that both parties have run for decades. The ads “are inaccurate and misleading but they are not anywhere in the same league” as Trump’s lies about a stolen election, former president Barack Obama’s birth certificate, or linking the father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to the murder of President John F. Kennedy, he said.
Reifler added: “Thirty-second spots do not really allow for nuanced political discussions and really incentivizes saying things that are as extreme as you can get away with.”

In a statement, Helen Kalla, a spokeswoman with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Republicans “have nothing to run on but lies and disinformation” to avoid talking about their plans to restrict abortion rights and address the economy.
Republicans stood by their ads.
“Yes, the ads are 100 percent and indisputably accurate,” said Calvin Moore, communications director for the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC whose ads also call Planned Parenthood one of the “radical” groups looking to defund the police and label any amount of money reallocated from any law enforcement program as part of the “defund” effort.

The National Republican Congressional Committee’s attack ad on Spanberger in Virginia says she voted to send “nearly $1 billion in stimulus checks to prisoners, including domestic terrorists.” When the narrator says this last part, the ad shows an image of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

What the ad does not show is the two previous rounds of stimulus funding that Republicans supported, which also allow money to be sent to incarcerated people, according to One of the Republicans who supported those earlier, similarly designed rounds of stimulus funding is Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), head of the NRCC.

And any check to Tsarnaev would have been seized to partly satisfy court-mandated payments to victims.
A spokesman for the NRCC did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The IRS ads directed at Porter appeared not only in California, but also targeted Democrats in Florida, Texas and New York.

Brandon Williams, the Republican nominee in Upstate New York’s 22nd Congressional District, began running television ads, with the NRCC, warning about “Biden’s plan to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to target the middle-class.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) was hit with a similar ad, from the Congressional Leadership Fund.

The ads refer to money in the Inflation Reduction Act that may pay for as many as 86,852 new IRS employees by the year 2031.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in an Aug. 10 letter to Commissioner Charles P. Rettig of the IRS that “small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less will not see an increase in the chances that they are audited.”
Instead, Yellen wrote, “enforcement resources will focus on high-end noncompliance.”
The Post’s Glenn Kessler wrote earlier that the 87,000 figure “is wildly exaggerated. These people are not all new tax agents.” And a bureau official said about 50,000 employees — more than half of its staff — are eligible to retire within five years.



HR King
May 29, 2001
The NRCC spent more than $400,000 on television ads in North Carolina, saying state Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Democratic nominee for a House seat, “voted against funding law enforcement, defunding the police.” The ad cites a single piece of legislation: the sprawling state budget.

Nickel voted against it. His campaign manager said in a statement that the vote was to protest the elimination of the state’s corporate income tax (which, if you think about it, is a way of defunding government more broadly). In a statement, Nickel said, “I’ve never voted to defund the police and I never will.”
Camille Gallo, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, said it is fair to make that claim based on Nickel’s budget vote since the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the same thing about Republicans.
The DCCC chair, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), told The Post’s Jonathan Capehart in December that Republicans who voted against the American Rescue Plan “literally voted to defund the police.”

In Arizona, Lake and Republicans have television ads saying Hobbs is “endorsed by radical groups that want to defund our police.”

In Georgia, digital ads from the Republican State Leadership Committee say Bee Nguyen, the Democratic nominee for Georgia secretary of state is “supported by groups that want to defund our police.”

In Michigan, television ads from the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said Democrat Hillary Scholten “stands with defund the police radicals.”

Hobbs’s campaign spokesperson said she “absolutely does not support defunding the police.” Nguyen’s campaign did not immediately reply to requests for comment. And Scholten told this month, “I have never supported defunding the police.”
The ad against Nguyen ran on Facebook for about a week before it was removed Thursday for violating its parent company’s advertising standards.
Text at the bottom of the ads refers to Planned Parenthood, NARAL and the Sierra Club, groups known for defending abortion rights and the environment.
In 2020, each of these groups said on their respective websites that they support calls to “defund” the police.
Melanie Newman, a spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement recently that the group’s “patients and providers rely on police officers to keep them safe from harm” and that the GOP “wants us to talk about a slogan that came from a community in pain instead of how they are consolidating power to control our bodies.”

Adam Bingman, spokesperson for the Sierra Club, said the group still supports defunding the police and that Republicans are “bending and distorting the real issue at hand: Black and Brown people are dying at the hands of the police at an astronomical rate.”
Angela Vasquez-Giroux, a spokeswoman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, did not address the organization’s stance on defunding the police, but said in a statement: “This is political theater — a clumsy, embarrassing attempt at changing the subject from a conversation Republicans have been pushing for 50 years.”

In California, a television ad from House Republican nominee Kevin Kiley says the Democrat in the race, Kermit Jones, will “join” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to “defund the police.” That claim is false.
Pelosi said in February that defunding the police is “not the position of the Democratic Party.” And Jones’s campaign manager told CNN the candidate “absolutely does not want to defund the police.”
Kiley’s campaign did not reply to an email seeking comment.

In Pennsylvania, Republicans spent more than $800,000 on television ads saying Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for Senate, “stands with the far left who want to defund our police.”
The attack ads against Fetterman cite a Jan. 31, 2016, debate and Aug. 22, 2016, interview with Pitt-News.
In two articles from that time, Fetterman expressed support for Black Lives Matter, but there was no mention of “defund.” In fact, Fetterman told Pitt-News back then that he supported “a Black Lives Matter kind of worldview, but also a community policing.” He also told Pitt-News, “I never positioned myself as anti-establishment.”
This month Fetterman went further, telling Semafor, “It was always absurd to defund the police.”

Katie Sanders, managing editor of PolitiFact, which routinely examines campaigns ads, said the main inaccuracy it sees from Democrats this year is too broadly describing some Republicans’ opposition to abortion rights.
Republicans have pointed to Connecticut’s closely watched 5th Congressional District. Their nominee, George Logan, received a 100 percent rating from NARAL in 2018 when he was a state senator and is now described in ads from the DCCC as vowing “to vote to further restrict abortion.” An image of Logan appears next to the words “Restrict Abortion Nationwide.”
Logan said in a recent debate, “I will do everything in my power to make sure that a woman’s right to choose is in no way infringed from what we have here in Connecticut state law,” Connecticut Public Radio reported. Kalla, the DCCC spokeswoman, defended the claim, citing Logan’s support for parental notification laws, which the state does not have and which advocates warn is a step toward further restrictions.

Jerome Silberman

HR Legend
Oct 30, 2009
The few(praise odin) ads I've seen in Iowa this cycle seem to say Nancy Pelosi as much as they say the name of the actual Democratic nominee. I'd guess there is a similar pattern trying to attach GOPers to Trump.
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