FAct Check: Clinton & Obama TV ads mislead about lobbyists and PAC contributions

“PAC-ing Heat” says that

In their most recent TV ads Clinton and Obama attempt to convince Pennsylvania voters that the other is financed by lobbyists and special interests. Both ads miss the mark.

For instance Clinton criticized Obama for promising not to take money from PAC’s and lobbyists in this campaign when he has done so. However, Fact Check notes that

Obama did in fact raise $1.2 million from PACs for his 2004 U.S. Senate race. Obama did not pledge to refuse money from lobbyists or PACs during his previous campaigns. In addition, the Boston Globe reports that Obama raised about $296,000 from corporations, labor unions, lobbyists and PACs during his 1996, 1998 and 2002 Illinois state Senate races. (We’ve pointed out before that it is illegal for federal candidates to accept funds from corporations. Illinois, however, does allow candidates for state office to accept money from labor unions and corporations.)

But, Obama may be splitting hairs, since while he does not take money from registered lobbyists he

does accept money from spouses of lobbyists, non-lobbying partners who work for lobbying firms or for law firms that do lobbying, ex-lobbyists, and state lobbyists.

Nevertheless, Fact Check concludes,

Clinton is within her rights to point to Obama’s past acceptance of money from lobbyists and special interests. But viewers shouldn’t take that as evidence that he has broken his promise. We’ve seen no evidence that Obama is not adhering to the letter of his pledge.

Clinton seems to be spinning in herad that

In Indiana, an energy lobbyist. A casino lobbyist in Nevada.” Could it really be that Obama won’t take money from lobbyists, but is happy to put them to work on his campaign?

Fact check points out that

None of these men is a federal lobbyist. All are exclusively state-level lobbyists working far from Washington…what Obama promised was not to take money from “Washington lobbyists,” and it’s misleading for Clinton to imply otherwise.

Meanwhile, Fact Check says Obama’s counterstrike is also misleading. Here’s the total report, whereas the above represents a summary.

Obama pushed back with a misleading ad of his own accusing Clinton of launching “the most misleading and negative ad of the campaign.” It says Obama takes “not one dime” from Washington lobbyists and says newspapers called Clinton’s attacks “the old politics.” It is true that one newspaper did call Clinton’s attacks “the old politics.” But it’s also true that Obama has taken $115,163 from former federal lobbyists, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s a lot of dimes. More misleading, though, is Obama’s charge that Clinton’s ads are being paid for with lobbyist money. While it is true, as we’ve said before, that Clinton has collected more money from PACs and lobbyists than any other candidate, the numbers aren’t really all that big in relation to her overall fundraising. Clinton’s donations from both individual lobbyists (past and present) and from PACs account for just 1.1 percent of all the funds she has raised. That makes Obama’s claim that lobbyists are funding Clinton’s attacks about 98.9 percent false.

So, mud is flying in both directions. But in looking at the column inches devoted to each candidate, it would appear that either Clinton is a tad dirtier or that Fact Check is disingenuous in its summary which implies that both candidates are conduction equally smearing ads and then weights its coverage otherwise.

Whether we are talking about false claims or about accentuatimg an opponent’s negative over accentuating one own’s positives, the public claims to dislike hardball politics. I suspect that the thing that annoys folks about Obama may be that he has his fingers crossed behind his back when he promises a “new politics.”

One reads that research shows that smears and negative campaigning work. I can’t in the small time remaining to me cite you a reference, so I’m not sure whether this is perceived or real wisdom. What I do know is that until the candidates are convinced otherwise, it may be naive to assume the practice will end anytime soon. If only someone would be candid. But that probably wouldn’t win elections.

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