GOP ads fast, loose with truth


Nevada airwaves are being flooded with more than $1 million in ads from U.S. Senate candidates and outside groups trying to sway Republican primary voters before Tuesday's vote.

For the endgame, all three leading GOP contenders -- Sharron Angle, Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian -- are running soft "vote for me" pleas. And the Tea Party Express is airing the last of its $500,000 in pro-Angle spots, which have lifted her into a position where she could score an upset.

But plenty of the commercials are stretching the truth to shape the outcome. Does Angle really want to give prisoners spa treatments? Did Lowden really help Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Harry Reid come to power? Is Tarkanian really the Tea Party favorite?

Here's a look at some of the ads.

The ad: A Lowden "spa" TV spot suggests that former Reno Assemblywoman Angle wanted to give criminals a cushy time in the clink and that the Southern Baptist is aligned with Scientology.

"Retreat, relax, renew," the ads says as images play of prisoners getting hot-rock back rubs. "Unwind and enjoy the soothing sauna and massage treatments in Nevada prisons."

The 30-second ad ends with a prisoner kissing a tattoo of Angle's image on his right upper arm.

The backgound: In 2003 when Angle was a Reno assemblywoman she proposed Nevada lawmakers take a trip to Mexico to look at a program called Second Chance that helps prisoners kick drugs, which could lead them to give up crime. She wanted Nevada to consider adopting the treatment program, but the Democratic leadership in the Assembly nixed the Angle trip.

The assessment. The ad mischaracterizes the intent of the program, which was not to help inmates relax behind bars but to help them with detox. And the prison program was not "developed by the controversial Church of Scientology," as the ads claims, although some of its methods are used.

Finally, the ad is flat out wrong when it says Angle "sponsored a bill" that would have used tax dollars to give massages to prisoners because she never introduced any such legislation.

The ad: A 30-second "Best Choice" spot by the Club for Growth, which is spending more than $400,000 on ads for Angle, attacks Lowden for raising taxes as a state senator and backing "Harry Reid for years." The ad calls Angle Nevada's "leading fiscal conservative" and "a common sense fighter always working to cut taxes for Nevada families and reduce government spending."

The background: The ad responded to a campaign commercial Lowden ran criticizing Angle for supporting several bills to raise legislative salaries, suggesting she was trying to line her pockets. Angle did vote for the measures, but they failed and would not have affected her but future lawmakers.

"Sue Lowden's attacking Sharron Angle? You gotta be kidding," the ad says.

The assessment: The ad is accurate when it comes to Angle, who won a reputation in the Assembly as one of 15 conservative Republicans opposed to almost any tax that came along. As for Lowden, she has a mixed record. During her first legislative session in 1993 she voted for some taxes and fees, from those on slot machines to water distribution. She also voted for changes to an employment tax that increased revenue an estimated $7.9 million. But in 1995, as chairwoman of the Senate Taxation Committee, she blocked efforts to raise taxes at every opportunity.

On Reid, Lowden donated at least $1,000 five times each to the Democrat's campaigns in the 1980s, something Lowden has acknowledged. She said she used to support Reid when she felt he represented Nevada better. Since then, she and her husband, Paul Lowden, wealthy casino owners, have together donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans over the years.

The ad: Tarkanian is running a radio ad called "Radical Tea Party" that highlights his connections to people in the movement, leaving the impression he has formal backing. The ad says conservative talk show host Glenn Beck called Tarkanian "a Tea Party radical." And Sarah Palin's father, Chuck Heath, calls Tarkanian "another strong conservative." Nevada Tea Party activist Barbee Kinnison says she supports him and "he'll beat Harry Reid." And Jim Gilchrist, founder of the anti-illegal immigration group Minuteman Project, says Tarkanian is the only candidate "I trust to fight alongside."

The background: All of the Republicans have been wooing the Tea Party movement of mostly conservative Republicans who believe in smaller government. The movement began in 2009, reacting to President Barack Obama's moves to bail out failing industries. It grew after the health care law passed and was criticized as another government takeover.

The assessment: Tarkanian might have support from individuals involved in the Tea Party movement such as Heath and Kinnison, but official Tea Party organizations have picked other GOP candidates. Angle won the national Tea Party Express endorsement, which shot her into contention. And the local Action is Brewing endorsed John Chachas, the Wall Street banker and Ely native who is lagging far behind but has strong fiscal credentials.

The ad: The "Out of Touch & Outrageous" TV spot is by the Patriot Majority, a political action committee headed by former Reid staffer Craig Varoga. The 30-second ad accuses Lowden of introducing a bill in 1995 to charge a $100 fee to noncombat veterans to be buried in military cemeteries.

The background: This is the second ad by the group, which damaged Lowden in May when it ran a spot mocking her suggestion people could barter with their doctors for health care and in the old days people did with chickens. Lowden's gaffe and the attention it got with this ad and other attacks by the Reid campaign and the Democratic Party helped cost Lowden her GOP front-runner position.

The assessment: The ad is accurate but doesn't include any context . Lowden said she backed the bill to pay the cost of upkeep for the cemeteries, but she withdrew it after veterans groups strongly objected. "I had to balance our state budget," Lowden said. Then she blamed Reid's "liberal allies" for attacking her and trying to defeat her in the GOP primary.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

 

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