Ad Audit: Shaheen Goes Negative; Attack Ad Fail; NHGOP Strikes Out

Aug 27, 2014

For months, Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown’s relationship with “big oil” has been the key that opened the wallets of donors to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s re-election campaign.

Now, with a recent poll showing Brown within striking distance of the incumbent, Shaheen is taking the message to the airwaves.

A new 30-second television commercial, titled “Profitable,” began airing Wednesday. It repeats a theme well-known to anyone who has received one of the scores of fundraising emails Shaheen has sent out to potential contributors since March: Scott Brown favors the interests of oil companies over those of New Hampshire families.

“The big oil companies are the most profitable on the planet,” the narrator says. “But Scott Brown voted to give them $20 million in taxpayer subsidies.”

The Shaheen ad takes Brown to task for votes he took on bills in 2011 and 2012, when he was the U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. The bills failed, allowing the five largest oil companies – Exxon, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips – to continue claiming certain deductions to reduce their tax bills.

Defeat of the 2011 bill, known as the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, saved those companies $21 billion, which would have gone toward reducing the federal deficit. A year later, the Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act went down, saving them $24 billion, most of which would have been used to extend subsidies for renewable energy and conservation projects.

The ad features four Granite Staters – two women, two men – who paint Brown as untrustworthy and self-interested.

“Scott Brown is in it for Scott Brown,” says one man. “Nobody else, and not New Hampshire. No way.”

This is the Shaheen campaign’s first foray into negative advertising in 2014, although the “big oil” attack on Brown is not a new one.

The League of Conservation Voters first began airing ads with a similar message back in February. And just last week, NextGen Climate, a Super Pac funded by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer released television, radio and web ads that accused Brown of protecting “tax giveaways for big oil.”

“Profitable” repeats a charge leveled in April by the Senate Majority PAC, which bankrolled an ad that accused Brown of protecting oil company interests in exchange for campaign contributions.

Citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the Shaheen ad notes Brown has received more than $450,000 in contributions from oil and gas producers, refiners, pipeline companies and fuel dealers.

In a statement, Elizabeth Guyton, the Brown campaign's communications director, dismissed the attack, saying voters will hold Shaheen accountable for her record on the economy, immigration and foreign policy.

“On each of those issues, Jeanne Shaheen has blindly followed the Obama agenda, which has weakened us at home and abroad,” Guyton said. “Scott Brown wants a strong America, with a strong economy and a foreign policy that once again leads the world."

Nonetheless, New Hampshire Democrats seem confident it'll bear fruit.

On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party launched a “Big Oil Billionaires for Brown” campaign that will “highlight Brown’s special relationship and record of close ties with out-of-state special interests.”

Attack Fail

A Boston television statement has pulled an ad by conservative dark-money group that accuses Shaheen of a conflict of interest after her attorneys challenged its accuracy.

Ending Spending Action Fund, a 501(c)4 nonprofit, began airing ads earlier this week that claimed “the Shaheen family law firm” had benefited from the federal stimulus.

In June, the Boston Globe reported that Shaheen’s husband, William, a partner in the Concord firm of Shaheen & Gordon, was an advisor to a company that received $78,000 in stimulus funds. The ad relied on the story to claim Sen. Shaheen’s wealth “has surged while in public office.”

But, according to the Associated Press, financial disclosure forms actually show Shaheen’s personal wealth has decreased by as much as $1 million.

Boston's NBC affiliate WHDH was the first to pull the ad, which is also running on New Hampshire's WMUR and on cable.

NHGOP Strikes Out [UPDATED]

New Hampshire Attorney General has declined to investigate a complaint by New Hampshire Republicans that Gov. Maggie Hassan accepted illegal contributions from a political action committee.

The New Hampshire Republican State Committee demanded Tuesday that the AG look into two $25,000 donations to Hassan from Emily’s List, a Washington, D.C.-based PAC, calling them questionable.

The NHGOP's complaint, however, did not explain how, if at all, the contributions were a violation of state law.

In a letter to NGOP Chairwoman Jennifer Horn, Associate Attorney General Richard Head said the Hassan campaign had provided documentation showing the contributions were within the law. "Because your complaint fails to state any factual allegation that would constitute a violation of the State’s election laws, " he wrote, "we decline to open a file.”

“We are not surprised that Governor Hassan’s handpicked Attorney General doesn’t want to move forward with another investigation into her illegal fundraising operation," said Lauren Zelt, NHGOP spokesperson. "Gov. Hassan has already proven that she cannot be trusted to tell the truth on her campaign finance reports and has already been forced to return $33,000 in illegal donations. Governor Hassan has lost the public’s confidence as a result of her pattern of illegal behavior, and the Department of Justice should investigate every one of her questionable donations.” 

The Republican complaint came within hours of a demand by the New Hampshire Democratic Party that the AG investigate Republican candidate Walt Havenstein for “multiple violations” of campaign finance law, including allegedly taking money from political action committees that failed to register with the state.

“The ruling by the Attorney General’s office reconfirms that the New Hampshire Republican Party’s reckless accusations yesterday were baseless and demonstrates that they are willing to waste taxpayer money in order to deflect attention from failed CEO Walt Havenstein’s ongoing tax evasion and campaign finance scandals,” said Bryan Lesswing, the NHDP's deputy communications director.