Ad Audit: Air War Heats Up In Campaign for N.H. Senate

May 24, 2014

Credit Sara Plourde

It was only a matter of time before Scott Brown’s involvement in a failed energy bill backed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen would get the political-ad treatment.

Sure enough, on Thursday, the Senate Majority PAC launched a television spot that cites “news accounts” that Brown lobbied Senate Republicans to block the bill in order to deny Shaheen a legislative victory.

The 30-second ad is scheduled to run until at least June 4 on WMUR, at a cost of $224,000, as well as on some cable stations.

This is the second ad from the Senate Majority PAC, run by former staffers of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, bringing the group’s investment in the New Hampshire Senate race to nearly $700,000.

Although Brown must face three Republican challengers in a primary election, Democrats believe the former senator from Massachusetts will most likely be Shaheen’s opponent come November.

The bipartisan energy proposal sponsored by Shaheen and Ohio Republican Rob Portman failed after Reid blocked a handful of amendments, prompting a filibuster by Senate Republicans.

Brown’s phone calls to Republicans, including New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, were first reported by The Huffington Post. Ayotte, who supported the bill, told the left-leaning online outlet that she spoke to Brown, but said she wasn’t pressured to vote a particular way.

"I just did what I thought was best based on my state and voted the way I thought I should," Ayotte said.

Brown’s campaign spokesperson didn’t deny he made the calls, but said he was merely expressing concern that the bill did not include a vote on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Earlier this week, Brown denied to reporters that he “actively advocated” for the bill’s defeat.

“No, I didn’t,” he said. “And I find it actually sad in Washington when there are failures they look outside themselves and try to blame other people for this.”

The new ad accuses Brown of “hurting Shaheen” in order to “gain another Senate seat,” and concludes with another poke at Brown’s status as a recent transplant to the Granite State: “Scott Brown just moved to New Hampshire and he’s already acting like his job is more important than yours.”

Brown’s campaign is no doubt aware that the “carpetbagger” label could hurt his candidacy. Indeed, a new television ad, also launched Thursday, addresses the issue head-on.

Half of the 30-second spot features photos of Brown as a child, his parents and his boyhood home on Islington Street in Portsmouth.

“I’ve been a homeowner in Rye for over 20 years. I care about New Hampshire,” Brown says in the voiceover, before switching gears to attack Shaheen for her support of the Affordable Care Act.

At that point, Brown relies on boilerplate – and largely inaccurate – criticisms of the law. The ad features two Union Leader headlines that put a decidedly conservative spin on the news. 

The first, “Premium Spike: Obamacare costs NH,” reports that a survey of insurance brokers expected New Hampshire’s individual insurance premiums to increase 90 percent next year.

But, as has been widely reported, only one of the 148 insurance brokers surveyed works in New Hampshire. When Americans for Prosperity repeated the statistic in an anti-Shaheen ad in April, called the claim “bogus.”

The second Union Leader headline, “Congressional Budget Office estimates Obamacare will cost nation 2.3M jobs,” is only slightly less misleading: the 2.3 million figure is legitmate, but it actually refers to workers, not jobs.

As the numerous fact-checkers have pointed out, premium subsidies available through the Affordable Care Act might allow some full-time workers to move to part-time jobs, while others may choose to retire. As CBO explained, the 2.3 million estimate “stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor….”

Misinformation about the report grew so widespread that the CBO issued a follow-up summary that attempted to clear up the misconceptions: “Because the longer-term reduction in work is expected to come almost entirely from a decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply in response to the changes in their incentives, we do not think it is accurate to say that the reduction stems from people “losing” their jobs.”

According to a contract on file at WMUR, the Brown ad is set to run on the station through June 2 at a cost of about $44,000. It’s the second ad from his campaign.

Conservative outside groups have been much active attacking Shaheen through the airwaves, spending more than $2 million on the race.