The American Issues Project has been planning to spend $2.8M on ads attacking Barack Obama (D-IL) for a relationship with an individual who was a radical back in the turbulent 60s. The Obama campaign, in addition to disputing the ad’s message, is calling it a violation of election law, since it advocates for his defeat. That means AIP, which is primarily funded by Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, must abide by campaign donation restrictions. According to Politico, it is calling on the DOJ to enforce the rules.
The Obama campaign is also pressuring media outlets to reject the ad, and is threatening reprisals against stations and the advertisers of stations who do run it, via boycotts and other measures. AIP counters that it intends to focus on issues, not specific attacks on Obama, and as long as the majority of its activity is focused on the issues, there is nothing prohibiting its current campaign. According to TNS Media Intelligence, there have been at least 150 airings in four battleground states.
RBR/TVBR observation: AIP seems to be arguing that it can run attack ads as long as they comprise no more than 49% of their advertising. We don’t recall percentages coming up at all in the Supreme Court’s Wisconsin Right to Life ruling. We aren’t lawyers, and according to Politico the individual who made that statement is, but we don’t believe AIP’s argument holds any water. If that’s true, the next question is whether or not the group will just run the ads anyway and pay a fine sometime after the election.