Days after an anonymous political group, the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America (FSPA), launched a million dollar ad campaign slamming Rand Paul’s foreign policy credentials in early primary states, a lawyer for Paul’s campaign committee fired off notices to local TV stations demanding they no longer air the “false and misleading” advertisement — or risk losing their license.
The spot, titled “Sanctions,” centers on the ongoing negotiations between President Obama and the Iranian government. Interspersed with images of missiles launching and Iranian mobs burning the American flag is a narrator’s voice telling viewers: “Rand Paul supports Obama’s negotiations with Iran and he doesn’t understand the threat [posed by a nuclear Iran] … Rand Paul is wrong and dangerous. Tell him to stop siding with Obama, because even one Iranian bomb would be a disaster.”
Organized as a nonprofit social welfare group, FSPA’s donors are not subject to public scrutiny as those of a super PAC would be.
The early ad blitz is aimed at softening support for Paul in the states where he will need it most: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. It hits the prospective Republican nominee just days after the Kentucky senator made his presidential campaign official.
According to Matthew Sanderson, general counsel to Rand Paul for President, the message obscures the candidate’s true stance on the Iran negotiations, and, he claims, could result in legal liability for any station that airs it. Reached by phone, Sanderson would not comment on the record for this article.
In a letter to Asheville station WLOS, which also broadcasts in northern South Carolina, Sanderson denied that Paul supported Obama’s tactics, writing:
Senator Paul has been a consistent, vocal critic of President Obama’s apparent preference for an impotent negotiation strategy and sanctions-free dealings with Iran … Unlike some members of the Establishment, Senator Paul does believe that diplomacy-through-strength can lead to a a peaceful and independently verified dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program. But he does not in any way support the Obama Administration’s weak negotiation tactics.
Unfortunately for the Paul campaign, it looks like the takedown move has failed, at least in Asheville and KCCI in Des Moines, where we spoke with a station manager regarding the ad. Public documents from WLOS, the Asheville station, show that Barry Faber, vice president of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns the station, ultimately decided the ad would run as scheduled.
Sunlight only learned of the takedown letter because WLOS posted the document publicly in its FCC public political file, which is compiled by Sunlight’s Political Ad Sleuth. We can’t say for certain how many stations the campaign went after.
You can see the letter from Rand Paul for President, as well as the rebuttal from the Foundation for a Secure and Prosperous America, referencing interviews and news reports on Paul’s position on the Iran talks, in full below:
For a dissection of the ad and its claims read Thursday’s piece in USA Today by FactCheck.org’s Robert Farley.
Update: Rand Paul spokesman Sergio Gor tells Sunlight in an e-mail, “We believe the ad is misleading, inaccurate and false, in fact Politifact rated it ‘Mostly False’. We believe TV stations should be made aware of that.”