Political ads scramble for foe takedowns

No holds barred in budgets either

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In the partisan wrestling matches that have come to characterize this year’s midterm elections, the takedown has become the move of choice.

Attack ads are nothing new in American politics, but the record-setting sums spent on campaign advertising this election cycle have also produced a bumper crop of candidates demanding that ads be taken down and removed from the airwaves because of distorted, questionable or outright false facts and statements.

Most of the challenged attack ads have targeted Republican candidates, and the number has increased in the past few weeks as the end of the primaries cleared the way for one-on-one races and early voting.

At least five candidates have demanded that their general-election opponent stop airing an attack ad.

Last week, Rep. Frank Kratovil Jr., Maryland Democrat, said Republican challenger Andy Harris supports a plan to increase federal sales taxes to 23 percent.

“Can you imagine paying a 23 percent sales tax on everything you buy?” the ad asks voters. “That’s in Andy Harris‘ unfair tax plan.”

The nonpartisan group Factcheck.org has called that line of attack on Republican candidates misleading because it fails to state that the so-called “fair tax” plan endorsed by Mr. Harris also would repeal the federal income tax. Several Maryland press outlets have also questioned the ad’s accuracy.

The Kratovil campaign has responded by slightly revamping the ad and using it as a bargaining chip in negotiations for a candidates debate.

Such a response is not surprising and usually a good strategy, said Factcheck.org Director Brooks Jackson.

“These claims about scurrilously false ads and complaints to the Federal Election Commission never come to anything,” he said. “It’s empty bluster. I see this every election cycle.”

Some candidates have had success in getting ads corrected or temporarily removed, but no one appears to have achieved a clean takedown.

Attorneys for Meg Whitman — the GOP candidate for California governor — this month got a Bay Area TV station and the state’s Comcast cable system to stop running an ad in which the former eBay executive is falsely portrayed as saying the state should cut billions of dollars more from its public school system.

However, the teachers union that sponsored the ad made a few fixes and had the ad back on TV within days.

Missouri’s race for an open Senate seat is proving to be among the nastiest of the cycle. At least three attack ads have led to demands from the other side that broadcasters not run them.

Rep. Roy Blunt, the Republican nominee, recently tried to remove a questionable TV ad by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee claiming that he was going to build a home on a million-dollar Washington property. But the ad continued to run as attorneys on both sides argued over who owned the property and whether commissioning a set of architect plans meant the Blunt family intended to build on the property.

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