If you thought the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks would bring a temporary halt to negative political ads, you thought wrong.
Crossroads GPS, the conservative advocacy group co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, chose today to unleash three new attack ads targeting Tim Kaine, the Democratic candidate for Virginia’s open U.S. Senate seat. Kaine swiftly condemned Crossroads, which doesn’t disclose its donors and is pouring millions of dollars into Virginia in an effort to influence the Senate and presidential races here.
“Today is a day that all Americans stand united in the memory of those we lost on September 11, 2001 and in the years since,” Kaine said. “Their sacrifice reminds us we’re not Democrats or Republicans first. We’re Americans first.
“Both presidential campaigns rightly suspended negative ads today. It is a sad reflection of the divisiveness of our politics that outside groups like Crossroads GPS cannot set aside false partisan attacks even as our elected officials and citizens of all walks of life, political parties, and religious faiths join together to honor the dead, thank our first responders and service members, and celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as a nation.”
Kaine’s campaign said it would issue a rebuttal to the Crossroads ads on Wednesday.
In a statement announcing the new ads, supported by a $1 million buy, Crossroads spokesman Nate Hodson said the group “will keep turning up the heat on Tim Kaine until he starts putting Virginia’s interests first.”
One of the three Crossroads ads links Kaine to defense cuts that could occur under last year’s bipartisan agreement authorizing an increase in the federal debt limit. The agreement called for a congressional “supercommittee” to come up with a long-term plan to reduce the deficit and for automatic spending cuts to occur if the panel failed. Kaine supported the debt-limit deal, as did Republican congressional leaders.
But Kaine’s Republican opponent, former Sen. George Allen, has criticized it and accused Democrats of using looming defense cuts as leverage to increase taxes. Kaine has said that Republicans are using the spending cuts as leverage to win more tax cuts for the wealthy.
“I believe Congress can still find a deal to avoid the need for cuts that are going to jeopardize our nations’s defense,” Kaine said in a July debate with Allen at The Homestead in Hot Springs. “They’re getting paid; they should do their jobs.”
Two other Crossroads ads released today hit Kaine for proposing “harsh funding cuts for Virginia schools” during his term as governor. One of the ads is tailored for a Northern Virginia audience.
The ad called “Teeth” refers to $357 million in school funding cuts that Kaine proposed in the two-year budget he submitted to the General Assembly in December 2009, a few weeks before he left office. The cuts were part of a strategy to offset a $4.2 billion revenue shortfall in the depths of the economic recession.
The ad fails to note that Kaine proposed using federal stimulus money to offset a portion of the state cuts. It also fails to note that the General Assembly and Kaine’s successor, Republican Bob McDonnell , ended up enacting a budget that cut state direct aid to schools by $645 million.
The ad also uses a quote from the chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors calling Kaine’s proposal a “kick in the teeth.” The quote actually refers to Kaine’s proposal to delay a scheduled update in the local composite index, a school funding formula based on a locality’s ability pay for basic education requirements. Kaine proposed freezing the adjustment, which would have sent a greater share of state dollars to Northern Virginia at the expense of other localities.
The General Assembly ultimately lifted the freeze. But it also provided a full “hold harmless” payment to affected localities in the 2011 fiscal year and a 50 percent payment in 2012.
– Michael Sluss