KOAT-TV in New Mexico has removed an ad sponsored by the liberal environmental group Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. The ad began airing last Thursday, and similar to 2008, its target is former Congressman Steve Pearce (R-NM). The TV station acted after receiving documentation that many accusations in the ad were false. According to the group New Mexico Watchdog: “The ad cited a report by CREW, which later admitted it botched its investigation.
Furthermore two years ago, newspapers examined these charges and also said they were false. Even the Democratic Chair of the House Ethics Committee signed a letter saying Pearce followed the law.” The Peace campaign reacted by saying: “We commend KOAT-TV for removing this false and misleading ad. It is clear Congressman Harry Teague (D-NM) and his special interest allies want to avoid explaining his record of failure on jobs. These false ads were an attempt to reward Teague for his votes for job-killing policies like cap and trade. Now Teague has nothing to hide behind.”
This has happened to the Defenders of Wildlife several times in the past, and their ads have always been controversial. The group has frequently been accused of blatant falsehoods, but their ads are effective. In 2008, three term incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) was defeated after the liberal groups spent $3.5 million on independent expenditures. It was the highest independent expenditure level against any House candidate in that cycle. The largest cash outlay came from the Defenders of Wildlife. They spent $1.6 million on independent expenditures (primarily TV ads), sent 41 staffers to Colorado, and knocked on over 83,000 doors.
These campaign expenditures were ironic because a report by the minority staff of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee said:
There is no instance where Defenders of Wildlife has spent funds on actual wildlife preservation and aid, the very cause which they claim to champion and raise money to address. . . Do capital-gains taxes and oil prices really impact wolves and other wildlife directly? Why does an organization with the purpose of protecting wildlife use these issues in their attack ads in place of wildlife issues? Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund has made this race a top target and has dispatched their top campaigner to Colorado 4thdistrict to run its Musgrave Campaign. This is the same staffer who ran the organization’s efforts to unseat former GOP House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo in 2006.
During her six years on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Musgrave was the target of over $10 million in independent expenditures. Musgrave was hated by the left because she was a prime sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act which was against gay marriage. Soon after her loss, Rep. Musgrave campaigned for the re-election of Sen. Saxby Chambliss and said: ”Until last month I was a congresswoman from Colorado. Leftist special interests from around the country poured money into my district to defeat me. They overwhelmed us with money. And they smothered the truth with vicious attacks and lies.”
Why Was Congresswoman Musgrave Criticized?
The Defenders of Wildlife ad said “She was named one of the most corrupt members of Congress.” CBS-TV in Denver responded to the allegation by noting:
The claim is misleading on a number of levels. First, the images used in the ad visually imply that the Fort Morgan Times has made this allegation. That implication is False. The claim originally came from a group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). That group compiled a list of legislators it claims may have violated congressional ethics rules. Here’s the spin. The group makes allegations and calls for investigations. It all gets printed as a news story. None of it goes anywhere. No official investigative body finds anything worth pursuing. Several years later, Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund recycles the flimsy claim for a TV attack spot. It’s not the whole story. The Greeley Tribune chased down one of the accusations in 2005, having to do with the leasing of campaign office space. The paper found CREW’s allegation against Musgrave to be false.
Another accusation from the environmental group is “Maybe that’s why she voted against raising fuel mileage standards that could save Colorado families almost $1,900 a year.” CBS responded by saying:
Here’s the spin. Musgrave did vote against measures in 2005 and 2007 that would have mandated more fuel efficient cars. Her campaign said she opposed the measures because they included new taxes. What the ad doesn’t point out is that Musgrave also co-sponsored a compromise bill with a number of Democrats, including Coloradans John Salazar and Ed Perlmutter, that would increase fuel efficiency standards, albeit on a slower timeline and with more loopholes than some competing measures. Bottom line, while Musgrave’s critics can find plenty of legitimate policy differences to attack in her voting record, Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund chooses instead to build its ad around a shameless accusation of corruption unsupported by the facts.