Super PACs in sheep’s clothing

Conservative super PACs in Maine and Florida are pretending to be liberals to deceitfully influence elections

Topics: Campaign ads, Campaign Finance, Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, Angus King, Florida,

Super PACs in sheep's clothingAngus King (Credit: AP/Joel Page)

One of the oldest dirty tricks in politics is running candidates in your opponent’s primary to distract them from the general or even potentially knock them out entirely. The FBI is reportedly investigating Rep. David Rivera for backing a fake Democrat with envelopes stuffed with cash, and Republicans in Wisconsin openly supported “fake Democrats” there in order to give Gov. Scott Walker an edge in the election’s timing.

But the rise of super PACs has opened up a new venue for this tactic, allowing operatives to anonymously deploy hundreds of thousands of dollars of ads while deceitfully pretending to be partisans of the other side. In Maine, where liberal-leaning independent former Gov. Angus King is the clear front-runner for an open U.S. Senate seat, a Republican-tied group with the innocuous name Maine Freedom has spent $250,000. But instead of promoting Republican Charlie Summers or using all the money to attack King, the group is boosting Democrat Cynthia Dill. The ads portray Dill positively, calling her “a Democrat you can feel good about.”

The idea, presumably, is that by increasing Dill’s currently meager share of the votes, they can siphon enough votes away from King to hand Summers the election. And there’s real precedent in Maine for this. Three years ago, the gubernatorial race looked a lot like today’s Senate race, with popular independent Eliot Cutler on a path to victory. Many observers in the state, including progressives, blame the Democrat for spoiling that election for Cutler and allowing Republican Paul LePage to win.

The Kennebec Journal reports that the treasurer of Maine Freedom, Michael Adams, works as an outside general counsel to the Republican Governors Association and used to serve as the RGA’s in-house counsel, but he denied that the RGA was involved in the Maine ads. In the typical language of these groups, Maine Freedom calls itself “a bipartisan coalition of people who live in Maine or love Maine or both, and who are focused on getting the facts out about the candidates for U.S. Senate.”



Meanwhile, on the other end of Route 1, in Florida, another faux liberal group is doing a similar thing. A group simply called Progressives is sending paid mail pieces attacking Democratic state Senate candidates — from the left. The mailers attack one for voting for a bill backed by the NRA, another accuses a Democrat of “looking out for the right-wing agenda,” while a third hits a Democratic candidate for donating to George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000. But the interesting thing about Progressives is that it’s not progressive at all. In fact, as the Orlando Sentinel reports, the group lists the same mailing address as a law firm and lobbying shop run by Richard Coates, who happens to be the general counsel for the Republican Party of Florida. “You mail a piece to Democrats and you put a return address with a Democratic-sounding name. It’s misleading at best and fraudulent at worst,” said state Sen. Maria Sachs, one of the targeted Democrats.

Indeed, while intervening in the opposition party’s internal politics to influence things in your favor is nothing new, what is new is that these groups can get away with spending massive amounts of money without having to disclose where it came from or why it’s being spent. Sen. Claire McCaskill is credited with helping Rep. Todd Akin win his Republican Senate primary, but she ran ads attacking Akin from the right in a way that she figured (correctly) would help him and with a disclaimer that they came from her campaign.

Meanwhile, the super PAC in sheep’s clothing approach in Maine has the benefit of damaging both the candidate being attacked and the candidate it supposedly helps. Even though super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns, the perception that Dill is benefiting from Republican secret money has nonetheless offended some liberals in the state. She has been quick to distance herself from the ads, calling them “cynical,” but the negative reception may remain.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>