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Senate Ads: The Last Roundup

by Will Evans
Nov 4, 2008

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Remember the United States Senate? Thirty-five seats up for election? Republicans in danger of losing a half-dozen or more?

While most everyone was talking about the presidential contest, what the next president actually does will be significantly determined by the composition of the Senate. So here's our roundup of the latest, and last, Senate ads.

Republicans Who Care is a 527 formed to support moderate Republicans and counterbalance the Club for Growth, which works to supplant moderates with conservatives. This year it wanted to prop up Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), in danger of being picked off by Democrat Jeff Merkley.

The group received $50,000 this year from hedge fund billionaire Robert Ziff and another $50,000 from Amory Houghton Jr., a former Republican congressman who used to run Corning Inc. James R. Houghton, retired chair of Corning, also gave $20,000.

Amo Houghton also founded the Republican Main Street Partnership, which spawned Republicans Who Care. Sarah Chamberlain Resnick handles finances for both groups.

The Republicans Who Care ad in Oregon accuses Merkley of supporting higher taxes...and taxes and taxes and taxes.

The housing and construction industries didn't want to lose Sen. Smith either. Both the National Association of Home Builders and the Associated Builders and Contractors trade association took to the radio airwaves with ads cheerleading for Smith.

We couldn't get ABC to share its ad with us, but the Home Builders ad says Smith "keeps watch to ensure equality and fiscal responsibilty" from his perch on the Senate Finance Committee. The Home Builders association has given Smith $41,000 over his career, making it Smith's 11th largets contributor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Some of the lines in the ad are made for kindergarten (no offense to kindergarteners), but they get the message across: "Few committees are more important. Sounds like a tremendous amount of work. It is. And Gordon Smith is ready for more of it. That is a good thing."

And now for Republicans Who Don't Care....No. Just kidding.

The Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, which popped up to support McCain in the Republican primaries, targeted the not-exactly-endangered Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD). The group was formed by former McCain advisor Rick Reed, who co-produced the TV ads for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. (McCain denounced the group's efforts during the primaries.)

Concentrating now on Senate races, the 501(c)(4) reportedly ran a radio ad against Democratic candidate Bruce Lunsford in Kentucky. The South Dakota ad blames Democrats for the economic crisis and knocks Johnson for taking money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Check out Citizens for Strength and Security and Americans for Job Security after the jump...

Citizens for Strength and Security, which started in the North Carolina Senate race, branched out to Kentucky, urging voters to send Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) home. The ad shows McConnell embracing President Bush and faults him for supporting free trade deals and privatizing Social Security.

Now let's see, who doesn't like free trade deals? Organized labor? Well, the 527 group got a new influx of union money, reporting $250,000 from the United Commercial Workers Union; $100,000 each from Majority Action, the Teamsters union, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. (Not to be outdone, the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees gave another half-million dollars to Patriot Majority.)

Americans for Job Security, which emerged as a big player in Senate races, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on TV time blasting Al Franken, the Democratic Senate candidate in Minnesota. One ad says Franken wants to fix the economy by raising all kinds of taxes.

Another ad, which cost the group nearly $900,000, links Franken to the economic crisis by accusing him of having "actually encouraged subprime lending." (As you might suspect, the Franken campaign says the ad takes his comments way out of context.)

And that's it, follks. Watch the returns and, if you get nostalgic for attack ads, come on back and replay 'em. That's why we're here.

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