Ben Smith ignored Politico's own reporting in claiming "the only outside attack ads to run this cycle have been financed by Obama allies"

››› ››› LILY YAN

The Politico's Ben Smith reported that Sen. Barack Obama "has complained that [Sen. John] McCain said he couldn't control attack ads from outside groups -- though the only outside attack ads to run this cycle have been financed by Obama allies and directed at McCain." In fact, the Vets for Freedom political action committee launched two Internet ads in May attacking Obama over issues related to the Iraq war, and the independent group Freedom's Watch ran television ads attacking Obama and two Democratic congressional candidates.

In a June 19 Politico article, senior political writer Ben Smith reported that Sen. Barack Obama "has complained that [Sen. John] McCain said he couldn't control attack ads from outside groups -- though the only outside attack ads to run this cycle have been financed by Obama allies and directed at McCain." In fact, as Media Matters for America noted when Smith made a similar claim in a June 19 post on his Politico blog, the Vets for Freedom political action committee launched two Internet ads in May attacking Obama over issues related to the Iraq war. Moreover, in the run-up to two special congressional elections in Louisiana and Mississippi on May 3 and 13, the independent group Freedom's Watch ran television ads linking Democratic congressional candidates Don Cazayoux (LA) and Travis Childers (MS) to Obama. On April 22, Politico writer Josh Kraushaar reported on the ads in an article titled "GOP uses Obama to attack Democrats."

Media Matters noted that two McCain "allies" and frequent McCain campaign surrogates -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a general co-chairman of McCain's campaign, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), a co-chairman of McCain's Connecticut Leadership Team -- served on the Vets for Freedom Policy Board of Advisors. But the day the group's PAC released the first Obama attack ad, they sent a letter to the group's president, Pete Hegseth, in which they "request[ed] a leave" from their positions "[d]ue to McCain campaign guidelines." Smith noted Graham and Lieberman's departure from Vets for Freedom in a May 29 blog entry.

Additionally, Smith wrote regarding attacks on Obama, "Pressed to name an independent effort, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs cited Floyd Brown, an obscure Republican operative who has produced Web videos attacking Obama's religion and his record, but had not raised enough money to air them." However, although he characterized Brown as an "obscure Republican operative," Smith and Politico writer Mike Allen have written multiple items on Brown, creator of the infamous Willie Horton ad and leader of the conservative activist group ExposeObama.com. In an April 24 blog post, Smith noted that although ExposeObama.com's recent ad "has no money behind it," cable networks have willingly aired the ad even while acknowledging, as MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer did, that the tactic is a "new way to get your ad covered without buying any time." In a June 11 blog post, Smith noted another ad by Brown smearing Obama. Smith wrote: "If there's an upside for Obama, it's that what had been a faceless viral whispering campaign now gets the face of a Republican operative explicitly working to elect McCain." In addition, Allen also noted the efforts of Brown in his May 11 "Playbook," in which he called Brown an "experienced attack artist[]" and reported on remarks Brown made in a Newsweek article.

Allen wrote:

Indeed, two of the most experienced attack artists are already gearing up. Floyd Brown, who produced the infamous 'Willie Horton' commercial that used race and fear of crime to drive voters away from Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988, produced an ad before the North Carolina primary accusing Obama of being soft on crime.

"[Floyd Brown] tells NEWSWEEK that Obama is 'extremely vulnerable' to questioning about his ties to Chicago fixer Tony Rezko, who has been indicted for political corruption. (Obama is not linked to any wrongdoing.) Another target is former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, whose association with Obama will remind voters of bomb-throwing student radicals of the 1960s. 'There's plenty of stuff out there,' says Brown. 'I'm kinda like in a candy store in this election.'

From Ben Smith's June 19 Politico article:

Sen. Barack Obama's announcement Thursday that he would finance his campaign with private contributions was the final step of a slow walk away from public financing that began almost as soon as his campaign started 17 months ago.

Obama said he would pursue public financing "aggressively." He committed to it in a written questionnaire. He even said, repeatedly, that he would meet with Sen. John McCain to discuss a deal.

Instead, his campaign never even asked the Republican's aides for a meeting on the subject. And Obama himself, both campaigns said, never asked for a face-to-face meeting with McCain.

"It was clear that there was no point," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

Obama has offered a variety of reasons for opting out. He has cited the fact that McCain has, in some eyes, already skirted campaign finance rules. He has complained that McCain said he couldn't control attack ads from outside groups --though the only outside attack ads to run this cycle have been financed by Obama allies and directed at McCain. More plausibly, Obama has argued that his reliance on small contributions is consonant with the central goal of campaign finance reform, which is liberating politicians from moneyed patrons.

[...]

McCain is "not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations," Obama said.

Ironically, there are no major Republican independent efforts attacking Obama, though the left-leaning MoveOn.org has put more than $500,000 behind an advertisement showing a mother telling McCain that he can't take her infant son to war.

Pressed to name an independent effort, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs cited Floyd Brown, an obscure Republican operative who has produced Web videos attacking Obama's religion and his record, but had not raised enough money to air them.

McCain's aides also mocked Obama's suggestion that he would "aggressively" seek an agreement with the Republican who had opted into the public financing, in the absence of his own torrent of online donations.

"I don't think he pursued it at all -- never mind aggressively," said the McCain campaign counsel, Trevor Potter.

Posted In
Elections, Campaign Finance
Network/Outlet
The Politico
Person
Ben Smith
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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