63 Days: Elizabeth Dole cements her status as the champion of third party attack ads

DAY 63

A new ad today by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) on behalf of Elizabeth Dole cements her status as the champion of third party attack ads. The NRSC, trying desperately to cling to Dole’s seat, is on the air with a baseless attack ad aimed at Kay, while of course ignoring the fact that Dole has voted with Bush 92% of the time and is number 93 out of all her colleagues in terms of effectiveness. But we shouldn’t really be surprised: in 2006, as chair of the NRSC, Dole was responsible for spending over $19 million on some of the country’s most despicable negative ads, and she defended a spot aimed at appealing to racist sentiments. Members of her own party were even willing to admit that Dole took the negativity too far. But vicious attack ads were nothing new for Dole, who stood by silently in 2002 while the NRSC ran exaggerated negative ads against her opponent, and she was silent again this year when her own state party ran a blatantly racist ad in the primary election.

As chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Dole led the Washington-based third party group in spending large sums of money to launch negative attacks against opponents that were called “vicious,” including some with “racial overtones.”

DOLE RHETORIC:

Dole Promised To Run Positive Campaign.
At the North Carolina Bar Association candidates forum on June 21, 2008, Dole said, “I will run a positive campaign for reelection,” [North Carolina Bar Association Forum, 6/21/08]

Dole Called On Kay Hagan To Reject Third Party Ads. At the candidate forum sponsored by the North Carolina Bar Association on June 21, 2008, Elizabeth Dole challenged State Senator Kay Hagan to tell third-party groups not to run ads in North Carolina during the 2008 election. [Raleigh News and Observer, 6/21/08]

Dole Campaign: Third Party Negative Attacks Reflect On Candidate’s Character. Responding to recent ads by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Dole campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said, “The difference between the candidates’ character is clear, and North Carolina voters will reject…negative campaigning.” [Dole Campaign Press Release, 8/1/08]

DOLE: A CHAMPION OF “THIRD PARTY” ADVERTISING

Under Dole, NRSC Invested Heavily In Advertising. According to the New York Times, the National Republican Senatorial Committee “lavished” money on close races in various states, including Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Virginia in 2006. The Associated Press reported that the NRSC, under Dole, “invest heavily in advertising,” spending $2.4 million in Missouri, $3 million in Ohio, and $1.5 million in Tennessee. In Virginia, the organization spent $1 million on ads for their candidate, George Allen, in the last week before Election Day. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/19/06; Washington Post, 11/1/06; New York Times, 11/6/06; Associated Press, 10/9/06]

Under Dole, NRSC Spent Over $19 Million On Negative Attacks. During Dole’s tenure as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2006 election cycle, the NRSC’s independent expenditure spent $19,233,051.64 on attacking Democratic candidates. [Federal Election Commission, Accessed 8/19/08]

Under Dole, NRSC IE Spent 98% Of Funds On Negative Attacks. Of the $19,528,341.14 that the NRSC’s independent expenditure spent during the 2005-2006 election cycle, 98% of those funds, or $19,233,051.64, was spent attacking Democratic candidates. [Federal Election Commission, Accessed 8/19/08]

Dole Helped Fund Negative Ads By Transferring $100,000 To The NRSC.
Between 2005 and 2006, Elizabeth Dole’s campaign committee transferred $100,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. [Federal Election Commission Press Release, 3/7/08]

Revolving Door For Staff Between The NRSC & Dole. Mark Stephens, who was Elizabeth Dole’s campaign manager in 2002, was the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s executive director in 2006. Brian Nick, who was the spokesman for the NRSC in 2006, is now Dole’s spokesman for her U.S. Senate office. [Raleigh News & Observer, 4/23/06]


UNDER DOLE’S LEADERSHIP, NEGATIVE ADS BY NRSC WENT TOO FAR

NRSC Ads Were Criticized By Fellow Republicans For Being Too Negative. The NRSC was criticized for launching what the Boston Globe called, “a harsh ad campaign” against Stephen Laffey in the Rhode Island Republican primary. Rhode Island GOP chairwoman Patricia Morgan expressed reservations about the level of negativity in the ads and said that she viewed the ads “as a personal attack on Laffey, which she considers an unfair tactic that is counter to the kind of campaign she associates with Chafee [the NRSC-favored candidate].” In response to the NRSC’s tactics, Senator Chafee said, “my preference would be positive, factual, issue-oriented ads.” [Boston Globe, 9/14/06; Providence Journal, 10/24/05]

Under Dole Leadership, NRSC Launched Attack Website With “Racial Overtones.”
The NRSC, under the leadership of its chairwoman Elizabeth Dole, launched an attack website titled “Fancy Ford,” in which the NRSC attacked the personal life of Tennessee senatorial candidate Harold Ford. The website was noted for its “racial overtones.” [The Hill, 3/9/06; Chicago Tribune, 8/31/06]

Dole Defended Third Party TV Ad That Had “Serious Appeal To Racist Sentiment.” Just days before the 2006 election, Dole defended a television ad by the National Republican Committee against Tennessee senatorial candidate Harold Ford that former Republican Senator Bill Cohen described as having “a very serious appeal to racist sentiment.” According to Dole, “[the ad] does carry messages” and “it’s based on research.” [Meet The Press, 11/5/06; Houston Chronicle, 10/24/06]

NRSC Ads Were Called “Vicious.” During the Republican primary race in Rhode Island, attacks between the two candidates were perceived as intense and overly negative. Victor L. Profughi, a retired political science professor at Rhode Island College and a pollster who has studied the state’s politics for 40 years, commented, “I’m searching for the right word – vicious. I’ve never seen a race that was anything like this in Rhode Island.” [New York Times, 9/10/06]

THIRD PARTY GROUPS RAN ADS AGAINST DOLE’S OPPONENT IN 2002

NRSC Ran Negative Ads For Dole In 2002. In Dole’s 2002 campaign, the National Republican Senatorial Committee ran at least three negative ads against her opponent and spent over $1.1 million on the ads through October 14, 2002. [Winston-Salem Journal, 10/16/02]

NRSC’s Negative Ads “Exaggerated.” According to USA Today, the NRSC saturated “the airways with a classic exaggerated negative commercial,” which charged Dole’s opponent, Erskine Bowles, with making $4 million as a New York corporate executive while his firm was being sued for “mismanaging worker retirement funds.” The NRSC also ran ads tying Bowles to President Clinton. [USA Today, 10/17/02; Raleigh News & Record, 7/2/02]

Ads By NRSC On Dole’s Behalf Pulled By Four Stations. The NRSC ran ads accusing Dole’s opponent, Erskine Bowles, of “hurting Connecticut pensioners” as a result of past investments. Four television stations pulled the ads from the air after the Bowles campaign proved they were false. [Charlotte Observer, 6/11/04]

Republican Leadership Council Attacked Dole’s Opponent And Dole Said Nothing.
In Dole’s 2002 campaign, a third party group called The Republican Leadership Council ran a radio ad attacking her opponent Erskine Bowles, which associated him with President Clinton in order to make the charge that Bowles “will say anything – even if it’s not true.” [Raleigh News & Record, 1/1/02]

---Disclosure: I am Kay Hagan's Online Communications Director---