TV Ads Financed With Secret Money Attack Paul On Day 1 Of Presidential Bid

TV Ads Financed With Secret Money Attack Paul On Day 1 Of Presidential Bid

2:07pm Apr 09, 2015
Sen. Rand Paul launched his 2016 presidential campaign Tuesday with a combative message against both Washington and his fellow Republicans, declaring that "we have come to take our country back."
Sen. Rand Paul launched his 2016 presidential campaign Tuesday with a combative message against both Washington and his fellow Republicans, declaring that "we have come to take our country back."
Carolyn Kaster / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Welcome to the 2016 presidential campaign. Republican Rand Paul officially entered the race Tuesday, and was greeted with a TV ad calling him "wrong and dangerous" on Iran. The money behind the ad is secret.

It was just a month ago that Sen. Paul (R-Ky.) joined 46 other Senate Republicans in signing a letter to leaders of the Islamic Republic. The letter threatened tougher treatment than Iran might get from President Obama, in negotiations on a nuclear-arms control agreement.

Paul's signature aside, TV audiences in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada on Tuesday began seeing the ad attacking him. It says, "Rand Paul supports Obama's negotiations with Iran. And he doesn't understand the threat." The punchline: "Rand Paul is wrong, and dangerous. Tell him stop siding with Obama, because even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster." The final image is a mushroom cloud.

YouTube

The ad comes from the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, or FSPA, which is a 501(c)(4) secret money group founded in 2007. It has run attack ads in past campaigns, but apparently never on this scale. It doesn't have to disclose its donors.

Its press secretary declined an interview request.

Secret money groups are proliferating in American election campaigns. FSPA said it's spending $1 million to air the ad in the first four states on the Republican primary calendar.

There are two noteworthy things about the ad. It comes as a surprise assault on an emerging candidate, and it accuses him of betraying American interests.

You could say Rand Paul got swift-boated, just like John Kerry.

Kerry was about to accept the Democratic nomination in 2004, when Swift Boat Veterans For Truth challenged his Vietnam War record, which he had seen as a strength. In the ad, one veteran from Kerry's unit said: "He dishonored his country. He most certainly did." Another veteran said: "I served with John Kerry. John Kerry cannot be trusted."

An architect of the Swift Boat ads, consultant Rick Reed, is now FSPA's president.

The Paul campaign struck back, calling the attacks false and labeling the group as part of the "Washington machine" that Paul opposes. The campaign said Paul in fact wants a deal that ends Iran's nuclear ambitions, and he wants it to face votes in Congress.

Erika Franklin Fowler is a director of the Wesleyan Media Project, a college consortium that tracks political advertising. "When a candidate airs an attack, they obviously suffer some backlash," she said in an interview. "When an interest group does it, it's harder for anyone to hold the group accountable in the same way."

She said it's a sign of what we'll see this spring and summer, "which is one, a lot of interest groups getting involved early, also a lot of negativity. We shouldn't expect that to go away in any way, shape or form. And you can bet there are a number of candidates that will face some opposition as they enter."

There's no sign of which candidate the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America might support.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The 2016 presidential race is now underway, and the attack ads are back. When Republican candidate Rand Paul made it official yesterday, he was instantly greeted with a TV spot calling him, quote, "wrong and dangerous on Iran." And who was paying for that ad is a secret. NPR's Peter Overby has more.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Just a month ago, Senator Rand Paul joined 46 other Senate Republicans as they signed a letter to leaders of the Islamic Republic. The senators threatened tougher treatment than Iran might get from President Obama in negotiations on a nuclear arms control agreement. Paul's signature aside, yesterday this went on TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Rand Paul supports Obama's negotiations with Iran. And he doesn't understand the threat.

OVERBY: The punch line...

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous. Tell him to stop siding with Obama because even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster.

OVERBY: The last shot - a mushroom cloud. The ad comes from the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, or FSPA, which is a 501(c)(4) secret money group. It doesn't have to disclose its donors. Its press secretary declined an interview request. Secret money groups are proliferating in American election campaigns. FSPA said its ad is airing in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. They're the first four states on the Republican primary calendar.

There are two noteworthy things about this new ad. First, it comes as a surprise assault on an emerging candidate. Second, it accuses the candidate of betraying American interests. You could say Rand Paul got swift-boated, just like John Kerry.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: He dishonored his country. He most certainly did.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: I served with John Kerry. John Kerry cannot be trusted.

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: Swift Boat for Veterans for Truth is...

OVERBY: The Swift Boat Veterans group derailed Kerry's campaign in 2004, just as he was about to accept the Democratic presidential nomination. An architect of the Swift Boat ads, consultant Rick Reed, is now FSPA's president. The Paul campaign struck back, calling the ads false and the group part of the Washington machine. It said Paul does want a deal that ends Iran's nuclear ambitions, and he wants Congress to vote on it. Erika Franklin Fowler is a director of the Wesleyan Media Project, a college consortium that tracks political advertising.

ERIKA FRANKLIN FOWLER: When a candidate airs an attack, they obviously suffer some backlash. When an interest group does it, it's harder for anyone to hold the group accountable in the same way.

OVERBY: She says it's a sign of what we'll see this spring and summer.

FOWLER: Which is, one, a lot of interest groups getting involved early, also, a lot of negativity. We shouldn't expect that to go away in any way, shape or form. And you can bet that there are a number of candidates that will face some opposition as they enter.

OVERBY: There's no sign of which candidate the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America might support. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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