We are deep in the heart of ‘gotcha’ season, with campaigns drudging up petty scandals to fire in attack ads rather than focusing on substantive issues. But some of those ads take it too far. From allegations of funding terrorists to accusations of being soft on sex offenders, here are five of the sleaziest political ads this fall.
David Perdue – “Secure Our Border”
In this clip from the Georgia Senate race, David Perdue (R) slams his opponent Michelle Nunn (D), saying that “her foundation gave money to organizations linked to terrorists.” (Nunn was CEO of George H. W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation and has been granted a leave of absence for the campaign.) Perdue bases this claim on the fact that Points of Light gave money to Islamic Relief USA, which falls under that umbrella organization Islamic Relief Worldwide. The National Review reported that Islamic Relief Worldwide has ties to Hamas. Islamic Relief Worldwide has denied these claims. Whether or not the allegations are true, there are still two issues with tying Hamas to Points of Light. First, the donations were for the U.S. affiliate of Islamic Relief Worldwide, which is a separate legal entity from the larger organization, according to Factcheck.org. Second, the donations did not come directly from Points of Light; they came from individual eBay sellers who, through Points of Light’s MissionFish unit, could choose to donate proceeds to any of over 20,000 approved charities, including Islamic Relief USA.
Mark Begich – “Crime Scene”
This ad from Alaska, in which Sen. Mark Begich (D) accuses his opponent, former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R), of letting sex offenders off with light sentences, was so controversial that it was taken off the air. The ad focuses on one case in particular, in which a man was accused of murdering a couple and raping their infant granddaughter in 2013. The ad blurs the truth, however, by placing all the blame for the man’s “light” sentence on Sullivan, when in reality the Department of Law, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety all had roles in sentencing, and Sullivan himself was not personally involved in the plea agreement, according to Factcheck.org.
Nick Rahall- “Jackie”
In this West Virginia ad, Rep. Nick Rahall (D) has a coal miner saying he heard that Evan Jenkins (R) would deny black lung benefits to miners. The ad makes this claim because Jenkins is on the record in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act, which, thanks to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) contained provisions making it easier for miners to qualify for black lung benefits, according to the Washington Post. Yet accusing Jenkins of being anti-black lung benefits because he is against the whole Affordable Care Act is tenuous at best, and on his website Jenkins says he would oppose any cuts to black lung benefits.
Mark Pryor – “Emergency Response”
Arkansas has had some of the nastiest campaign ads this season, and here Sen. Mark Pryor (D) continues the trend by using Ebola fear-mongering. He claims that his challenger Rep. Tom Cotton (R) “voted against preparing America for pandemics like Ebola.” While it’s true that Cotton voted against an early version of the 2013 pandemic and emergency preparedness bill, this ad conveniently glosses over the fact that Cotton voted for the final version of the bill, which Pryor also supported.
National Rifle Association (NRA) – “Defend Freedom, Defeat Mary Landrieu”
This ad, sponsored by the NRA and run in Louisiana against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), goes for shock value by depicting a home invasion against a defenseless woman alone with her newborn. It says Landrieu “voted to take away your gun rights.” In reality, Landrieu supported a measure that would have expanded background checks for gun shows and Internet sales. That measure would not have affected private gun sales, where background checks are already required. So even if the law had passed, the woman in this video, who presumably lacks a severe mental illness that has been flagged by a court or a certain criminal convictions, could still have purchased a gun.