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Santorum demands pro-Romney super PAC pull down 'false' attack ad

January 16, 2012|By John Hoeffel
  • Rick Santorum speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Prayer Breakfast in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Sunday.
Rick Santorum speaks at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Prayer Breakfast… (Janet Blackmon Morgan /…)

Reporting from Columbia, S.C. — Stepping up his counter-attack against ads assailing his record, Rick Santorum called a news conference and demanded that Mitt Romney ask a super PAC supporting him to take down an advertisement that he said suggests he supports allowing felons in prison to vote.

"Unfortunately, we see the politics of negativity, not surprisingly, when a candidate is challenged and particularly when Gov. Romney is challenged," the former Pennsylvania senator said, accusing Romney of sending "his henchmen" to spread "disinformation."

He also lit into Ron Paul, whose campaign has run hard-hitting ads aimed at eroding Santorum's reputation on key conservative issues. Santorum pointed to one ad that called him "corrupt," saying that charge was based on the work of a "radical, left-wing organization."

"This is absolute gutter politics on the part of Congressman Paul and, again, consistent with what Gov Romney's done, in misleading, misrepresenting and outright lying to the people of South Carolina," Santorum said at Lizard's Thicket, a country-style diner. "To have these kind of smear campaigns and these smarmy robocalls where they're out there putting out misinformation without any factual basis behind it, we can do better than this, folks."

Santorum said he cast one vote to allow felons who have served their time and completed their probation and parole to become eligible to have their right to vote restored.

"For Gov. Romney's super PAC to go out and lie to the people of South Carolina that I want to grant felons who are in prison the right to vote, that is simply wrong, factually incorrect," he said, calling the ad, which he said shows prisoners in uniform, "explicitly false."

He said that when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, the state had an even looser approach to restoring the vote to felons and that Romney did nothing to change it. "His position on felon voting is weaker than mine," he said.

A spokesman for Romney's campaign declined to comment. Representatives of Restore Our Future, the super PAC that is backing his candidacy, did not respond. The candidates and the super PACs are not allowed to communicate or coordinate their efforts. Romney has said previously that the super PAC should correct anything that's wrong.

Paul's campaign also did not respond to a request for comment.

Santorum also attacked an automated call to voters that he said criticized him for earmarks, asserting that, as a governor, Romney was "aggressively seeking earmarks." "The bottom line is that what we've seen is absolute hypocrisy on the part of Gov. Romney," he said.

Santorum said that he supports the moratorium on earmarks, which are expenses federal lawmakers insert into spending bills, but he also defended them. He said some of nation's most important military equipment, including Predator drones, began as earmarks.

He has also been attacked for failing to back a national right-to-work law. He said he didn't support it as a Pennsylvania senator because he did not want to overturn the laws of his own state. "I didn't think that was appropriate," he said. "I stand by that decision today." But, as a presidential candidate, he said he has signed a pledge to support such a bill.

Santorum, who has run negative ads in his previous campaigns, is running an advertisement in South Carolina that stresses his commitment to his conservative values. He promised he would stay on the high road. "I'm not going to go out there and misrepresent someone's record for political purposes," he said. "We're going to keep it above board. We're going to keep it about issues, not about things that clearly are intended to mislead the people of this state."

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