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Professor mounts campaign against inaccurate 'super PAC' ads

February 15, 2012|By Alana Semuels
(Restore Our Future )

Super PACs have upended the presidential campaign by airing attack ads ad nauseum in Florida, South Carolina and Michigan, among other early-voting states.

Some have included material so inaccurate that one professor is embarking on a campaign to stop them from airing.

Starting Thursday, Kathleen Hall Jamieson at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication wants television viewers to contact their local TV stations and urge them not to air inaccurate Super PAC ads.

"People are very frustrated by the level of dirty attacks by Super PACs,” said Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the university. “Instead of feeling frustrated, they can email their local stations.”

Stations are required to air any ad by a candidate for federal office, whether or not it is inaccurate, so that that candidate's speech is protected. But stations can exercise discretion about third-party ads.

“Stations should say, ‘You have to fix that and make it accurate,’” she said.

Jamieson already urged Ohio stations to take down inaccurate ads in this video piece. But she says that stations are still airing ads that were proved inaccurate months ago.

One spot running against Gingrich, for example, alleges he was fined $300,000 for an ethics violation – he was actually asked to repay the cost of the investigation into his ethics dalliances, but was not fined.

Another inaccurate ad accuses him of supporting abortion by encouraging China’s one-child policy.

Santorum is the subject of an ad that shows an image of a man in an orange jumpsuit, and accuses Santorum of letting convicted felons vote. Santorum allowed people out of jail to vote, once they paid their debts to society, but never voted for any bill that would have allowed people in jail to vote., another site run by Annenberg, looks into the accuracy of political ads. Jamieson says that her group will provide a public service by fact checking the ads, and asks viewers to alert stations to when ads are inaccurate. Stations just have to comply and take down the ads.

Jamieson say this effort could help prevent some of the disillusionment with politics that voters have expressed in states such as Florida, disillusionment that might have led to lower voter turnout in GOP primaries. Since South Carolina, turnout has fallen 14% in Florida, 26% in Nevada, 6% in Colorado, 23% in Minnesota and 58% in Missouri.

“Right now, voters are becoming more and more disillusioned with the whole batch of Republicans,” she said. “IF they become disillusioned because they’ve been lied to, then we have something wrong with our political process.”

By the week of the Florida election, Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Romney, had spent $8.5 million on ads and Winning Our Future, the pro-Gingrich super PAC, spent $2.2 million.

The site for viewers to contact their local stations will be at, on the Stand By Your Ad banner.

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