False, misleading, racist, cynical and just plain strange campaign ads are nothing new in politics. But thanks to a recent string of court rulings gutting campaign finance regulations, such ads are now more plentiful than ever.
Thanks to this flood of spending, it probably won’t be long before the next round of outrageous campaign ads hits the airwaves. But in the meantime, we’re taking a look back at some of the best — and by “best” we mean “worst” — Republican campaign ads of the 2014 cycle.
5. Bibles & Guns, Bibles & Guns
Zach Dasher, nephew of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson, is hoping that his family’s newfound fame can help get him elected to the U.S. Congress this year. The Louisiana Republican wants to make it clear that he is for the Bible and guns and against all those government officials plotting to take them away any day now.
And what better person to convey that message than Phil Robertson himself, who says in an ad financed by Dasher’s campaign he is supporting his nephew’s congressional bid due to his brave pro-Bible, pro-guns stance.
4. Gay Marriage Afoot
The National Organization for Marriage has joined other Religious Right groups including the Susan B. Anthony List’s Women Speak Out PAC and the National Right to Life Committee in spending big in North Carolina in an effort to take down Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.
NOM attacked Hagan for voting to approve a federal judge who overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, while lauding her Republican opponent Thom Tillis for his opposition to marriage equality. Incidentally, Tillis hired NOM’s chairman John Eastman to help preserve the ban.
Judge Max Coburn Jr., as Jeremy Hooper notes, was confirmed by a 96-0 vote, meaning that Senate Republicans, including North Carolina’s Republican Sen. Richard Burr, also supported the judge that Religious Right activists have derided as a liberal activist.
After the Michigan GOP’s last Senate candidate drew criticism for running a racist ad during the Super Bowl, the party now seems to be playing it safe by sticking to pop culture references. In a new ad, “Gary Peters’ Loan Sharknado,” the state party suggests that Peters, a Democratic congressman running for the open Senate seat, has relied on the funding of a loan shark gangster.
The ad refers to Tomo Duhanaj, a restaurant owner convicted of loansharking, who contributed to Peters a total of $7,400 during the years before Peters’ Senate bid, and prior to Duhanaj’s arrest. “Federal records show the contributions to Peters were returned at the time of his arrest, on Aug. 3, 2012,” the Michigan website MLive.com notes.
In the end, the unintentionally hilarious ad may be more interesting than the flimsy attack itself.
2. Willie Horton Revisited
Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., backed the GOP’s government shutdown in 2013, but wanted to be clear that he thought he was still entitled to receive his paycheck. “Dang straight,” Terry said at the time. “I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly.”
Terry is now facing a tough re-election battle and needs what help he can get from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which is on the air in his district with an ad that many commentators are calling an updated version of the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad.
The ad refers to a “good time” bill backed by Terry’s Democratic opponent Brad Ashford, along with every single member of Nebraska’s unicameral legislature and the state’s Republican governor, that was designed to reduce the sentences of some convicted criminals for good behavior in prison.
Nikko Jenkins, whose face is placed next to Ashford’s in the NRCC ad, is a diagnosed schizophrenic who murdered four people after he was released early from prison after serving time for an assault conviction.
The widely panned ad, which was also criticized by some Republicans, backfired spectacularly when the killer publicly endorsed Terry during a court hearing.
“Vote Lee Terry guys, greatest Republican ever,” Jenkins shouted. “Vote for Lee Terry. He’s a great guy.”
1. My Opponent Funds Terrorists, Probably
If Georgia GOP Senate nominee David Perdue is to be believed, his Democratic opponent Michelle Nunn is funding radical Islamic terrorists … through former president George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation.
Before Nunn took the top job at Points of Light, the foundation had a business which allowed eBay users to donate part of their proceeds to a charity of their choice from a list of 20,000 nonprofit organizations. The list included Islamic Relief USA, which, according to Perdue and his allies at the conservative pro-corporate group Ending Spending Action Fund, is “tied to radical terrorists.”
Islamic Relief USA, which received about $13,500 through the eBay program, strongly denies that it is affiliated with terrorists and it in fact has ties with the U.S. government aid programs. As PolitFact notes, the group is “not on the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list.” Amazingly enough, Perdue’s campaign cited a Nunn campaign memo about possible false attacks against their candidate as proof that the attack was true.
Neil Bush, son of the former president, called Perdue’s charges against his father’s organization a “ridiculous” and “shameful” smear.
One Georgia columnist pointed out that a similar charity contribution program for federal employees also lists Islamic Relief USA, noting that if “Points of Life funds terrorism, then by the same distorted logic the U.S. government also funds terrorism.”
In fact, since Perdue is effectively linking George H.W. Bush to a terrorist funding scheme, and Perdue successfully sought Bush’s endorsement, then Perdue may be, according to his own campaign, implicating himself in terrorism!