For the third time in a month, the Senate Majority PAC received a “four Pinocchios" ranking from the Washington Post for a commercial seeking to help Democratic Senate candidates and attack Republicans. The Post even excoriated the TV stations that aired the latest ad, which was for the Louisiana Senate race and targeted both the Koch brothers and the state's GOP Senate candidate.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) speaks during a press conference to urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, on Capitol Hill April 1, 2014 in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images/Allison Shelley)
A key 2014 Democratic strategy has been to attack David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who contribute to various conservative political causes and candidates. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has led the charge, calling the two “un-American.” The Senate Majority PAC is run by former Reid aides.
In Louisiana, incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is fending off a tough challenge from Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. The Senate Majority PAC paid for a TV ad in the state that said: “We’ve been battered by hurricanes, lost everything to floods. And for thousands of Louisianans, flood insurance and hurricane relief are our only protection. But the out-of-state billionaire Koch brothers funded the fight to let flood insurance premiums soar, helping the insurance companies and cut off hurricane relief for Louisiana families. Now they’re spending millions to buy a Senate seat for Bill Cassidy so he can fight for them. If the Kochs and Cassidy win, Louisiana loses.”
Four Pinocchios is the highest ranking the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" gives to a false political claim.
“This is the third time in a month that the Fact Checker has given Four Pinocchios to an ad sponsored by Senate Majority PAC,” the Post said. “That’s a pretty dreadful track record, and does little for the organization’s credibility more than six months before the midterm elections.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent a letter to 34 TV affiliates that broadcast in Louisiana demanding they stop airing the advertisement, but the stations contend the material appeared factual.
“Television stations in Louisiana should be ashamed of falling for such an obvious gambit. Individual lines may be true, but the net effect is highly misleading,” the Post said. “Surely, the standards for political advertising in Louisiana need to be higher if residents are going to have a civil political debate.”
The Post said it's factual to say the Koch brothers fund conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity that believe flood insurance programs are wasteful. However, the ad “fails to mention that one of the key lawmakers who fought against AFP—and prevailed—was Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).” Cassidy co-sponsored an amendment to restore funding for flood insurance, the Post said.
“If anything, Cassidy could run an ad saying that he took on the Kochs—even though they are backing him–and beat them. But the opposite can’t be true,” the Post said.
The Post also pointed to the irony of the Senate Majority PAC, which it said was heavily financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, would complain about organizations being bankrolled by billionaires.
AFP opposed an omnibus bill concerning Superstorm Sandy, stating: “Washington politicians are using this tragedy to secure billions in spending for their own pet projects like fisheries in Alaska, new cars for Homeland Security or tree planting on private property.” The group called for paying for the relief by cutting other government spending.
“As far as we can tell, the Sandy bill did not have hurricane relief for Louisiana families,” the Post said. “Previously, Senate Majority PAC has made this claim without any specific reference to Louisiana. This part of the ad cites no source and Senate Majority PAC did not respond to repeated queries about this ad. Thus we can only assume the ad makers simply invented the connection to Louisiana.”