Unprecedented Cash Pours Into Deceptive Campaign Ads

This is the new reality: 85% of the dollars spent on presidential ads by the top conservative political action committee were spent on "ads containing at least one claim ruled deceptive by fact-checkers."

That's from an analysis carried out by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which in other words found that 85% of the $25 million worth of ads bankrolled by political action committees contain lies. This probably isn't exceptionally surprising, except for the sheer scale and the magnitude to which the lies are being broadcast.

For an idea of that scale, here are the four top donors and how much they spent on ads that contained at least one verifiable falsehood:

  • American Energy Alliance, which champions free market energy policies: $3.3 million ($3,269,000)
  • Americans for Prosperity, the David Koch-founded Tea Party vehicle: $5 million ($5,018,000)
  • American Future Fund, a Republican-leaning group founded by longtime Iowa political operative Nick Ryan and headed by state Senator Sandra Greiner: $6.4 million ($6,365,930)
  • Crossroads GPS, a conservative public policy advocacy group advised by former Bush lieutenant Karl Rove: $10.3 million ($10,263,760)

Also interesting—from the report: "As of June 1st, no Democratic leaning 501(c)(4) had paid for advertising in the presidential race." But that's probably just because they don't have the same kind of cash on hand.

Here's a sampling of the sort of lies the PACs paying to propagate:

  • Obama personally lobbied to kill a pipeline bringing oil from Canada" (Est. $191,490 spent on claim)--Crossroads GPS
  • Obama opposed exploring for energy in Alaska" (Est. $1,634,500 spent on claim)--American Energy Alliance
  • The stimulus bill sent tens of millions of dollars to build traffic lights in China" (Est. $2,509,000 spent on claim)--Americans for Prosperity

As you can see, many of the falsehoods are aimed at Obama's record on energy. In fact, Stephen Lacey at Climate Progress notes that "a large share of those ads have been focused on energy — particularly on the solar company Solyndra. A Bloomberg analysis found that 81 percent attack ads against President Obama were related to energy in the first quarter of this year."

It's crazy time. An unprecedented amount of cash is pouring into this race, and it's largely being used to spread outright lies. Initially, I thought that PACs and Super PACS would mostly just end up being super annoying—that there's a saturation point wherein Americans get tired of being bombarded with TV ads. But then the Wisconsin recall went down, and Scott Walker outspent his challenger 7 to 1 and won handily. There's no doubt that this all bodes ill for democracy, and pretty much anyone who's not a plutocrat or a local TV station manager.

Tags: Activism