Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roundhouse Roundup: The 2012 Attack Ads Are Starting!

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Nov. 6, 2011

The 2012 negative campaign ad season is upon us. There are only 365 slandering days left until the general election.

Last week, a national group connected to the Democrats’ favorite right-wing billionaire boogeymen, David and Charles Koch, began exercising its right to free speech in New Mexico and other battleground states by launching a $2.4 million television ad campaign targeting President Obama on the Solyndra solar company scandal.

The 60-second spot is running here as well as Florida, Michigan and Virginia.

The group Americans for Prosperity announced this the day after U.S. Tom Udall announced his proposed constitutional amendment to allow the federal government and state governments to regulate campaign contributions and spending — including “independent expenditures” by groups such as Americans for Prosperity.

Udall, at a Washington, D.C., press conference, lamented the proliferation of campaign ads that are “overwhelmingly nasty, negative and mean-spirited” since last year’s “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

I later spoke with state House Republican Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington. While not endorsing Udall’s proposal, Taylor also spoke with disdain about the unwelcome barrage of attack ads by mysterious groups with generic-sounding names.

Just thinking about the inevitable wall-to-wall attack ads — which will have even political junkies like me pulling hair out — made me think that singer John Prine had the right idea 40 years ago in the song, “Spanish Pipedream:”

“Blow up your TV.”
The first shot: As far as attack ads go, “Obama’s Green Giveaway” actually is relatively restrained. The issue is bound to be embarrassing for Obama, but the delivery is not as vicious as many I’ve seen.

The Koch Bros: Beware those wealthy donors!
“Wealthy donors with ties to Solyndra give Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the spot begins. “What does Obama give them in return? Half a billion in tax-payer money to give to his friends at Solyndra, a business the White House knew was on the path to bankruptcy, but loaned them the money anyway.”

The narrator continues: “What’s worse? The Obama administration has just approved a billion dollars in loans to solar companies who also donated money to Democrats.”

The implication: The contributions were the main reason for the loans. Plus, being “solar companies,” they’re bound to fail, just like Solyndra.

The ad concludes, “Tell President Obama you shouldn’t use taxpayer money for political favors.”

Good advice. Of course, the ad stops short of saying the government should stop subsides to oil companies that contribute big cash bucks to politicians.

A Washington Post blog in September reported that “evidence is mounting that there was something irregular about the way the Solyndra deal got greenlighted.”

The blog noted White House emails — some of which appear in the ad — from the administration pressing the Office of Management and Budget to approve the deal in time for a Solyndra groundbreaking ceremony in September 2009.

But the Post noted that Solyndra’s loan was initiated by the Bush administration and that several key investors were Republicans. The Energy Department’s loan guarantee program has made $38 billion in loans for 40 projects.

Here's the ad: