Local Politics

Interest groups drive campaign message with attack ads

Posted October 22, 2008

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— Shadowy special-interest groups sometimes spend as much money on negative political advertisements as the campaigns of major candidates spend.

Loopholes in campaign-finance laws open the door to big money and limited disclosure for the so-called 527 groups. The name derives from the section of the federal tax code under which they operate.

A group called Alliance for North Carolina, for example, began airing television ads in July targeting Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory. The group was funded by the Democratic Governors Association and a political-action committee for a national teachers union.

More recently, the Republican Governors Association used a Web site that State Treasurer Richard Moore set up during his primary campaign for governor to bash the eventual Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue.

"Even though the public says that they hate them, negative ads still move voters," said Joe Sinsheimer, a former Democratic consultant.

Voters need to be concerned about who's paying for the ads, Sinsheimer said.

Unlike tightly regulated campaign organizations, 527 groups can attract large amounts of money from special interests whose backers might be hard to identify. The groups are supposed to focus on issue advertising, but they can frame their ads to support or oppose a particular candidate.

"They can put up to $1 million on the air supporting a candidate or opposing another candidate, and that gives them large influence," Sinsheimer said.

Former state Rep. Rick Eddins blames a 527 for his loss two years ago in his re-election campaign. Mailers sent by a special-interest group incorrectly tied him to corruption, he said.

"I see it doing nothing but getting worse and worse," Eddins said of unregulated shadow tactics. "Let's get these special interests out of our elections, just like we want to get (them) out of Wall Street."

Leaders of 527 groups maintain they operate within campaign-finance laws and that any effort to stop their influence is an attack on political free speech.

In a split vote last week, the State Board of Elections backed off a 527 funding controversy, calling on lawmakers and the courts to clarify the rules.

"The bottom line is to have full disclosure so the public can make up their own minds," said Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections. "When it comes to 527s, is there that disclosure now? Disclosure is delayed, and it's very hard to come by."


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  • rc4nc Oct 23, 2008

    A nickname is a term of endearment reserved for family and close friends, when used by opponents in a political campaign I for one considered it bad manners and disrespectful.

  • rc4nc Oct 23, 2008

    I just heard the ad "Sponsored by Beverly Perdue" that actually stated "Pat McCrory was trying to "fool" voters, but come election day we'll see who the fool is" thought that was a bit much...

    PS: I already voted for McCain and McCrory, and I'll be glad when the name calling and mud slinging stops....

  • CaryCrazzy Oct 23, 2008

    Has anyone seen the ad where Patt comes with a nice smile on his face and says "Aren't you tired of negative ads?" and makes it seem like he's against it and then as soon as his add ends there is a message againts Bev. where it attacks her.

    This is just crazy!! its hypocrisy....................

    But "when I get there I will let you know" " I will let you know" lol

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 23, 2008

    "Liddy" is Dole's nickname from ages ago...when she actually spent more than 2 days a year in NC. No disrespect. She used to call herself this. The point of the men-in-rocking-chairs is to endear folks and show how Liddy used to be "one of them", used to get things done...but not anymore.

  • Unbroken Oct 23, 2008

    Oh right. So then calling someone a "fibber" and likening them to a yapping dog is respectful? Please get off of your high horse and not single out one party/candidate as being disrespectful. Unfortunately it is an all too familiar trend across all parties and races.

  • rc4nc Oct 23, 2008

    I've seen many ads by outside groups targeting Senator Elizabeth Dole, and promoting Senator Kay Hagan. I'ts disrespectful for strangers to use a nickname when addressing anyone. I tune the ads out when I hear politicos refer to Senator Dole as "Liddy". Do the folks in North Carolina support such disrespect? What happened to good manners? I realize we're talking politics here, but, you're only as good as those you associate with.

  • anitathebaptist Oct 22, 2008

    When the ads are as negative as these have become , they are a certain TURNOFF !! As adults , we should be treated w/ more intelligent than that . I turn the channel or mute them . We want people TO vote -- not be so discouraged as to give up on the whole process. I honestly can't stand them anymore and will be so relieved when this election is OVER !!!

  • Justabum Oct 22, 2008

    I'm sick of the attack ads. I also refuse to vote for anyone who disturbs me at home with a recorded message asking for my vote or attacking their opponent. I don't like any of the candidates in any of the races and think that the country is screwed no matter which of them are elected.

  • Myword Oct 22, 2008

    Less than 2 weeks left and over 10 percent of the registered voters in NC have already voted! Cmon Nov. 4!