Kane fights back against campaign attack ads

Posted: October 03, 2012

Democratic heavyweights joined attorney general candidate Kathleen Kane on Monday in her attempt to beat back a series of negative campaign spots that one nonpartisan fact-checking group has described as "the most blatantly false attack ads of the political season."

Flanked by politicos such as former Gov. Ed Rendell and former Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham, Kane denied the ads' contention that she was soft on rape during her time as a prosecutor.

She called on her Republican opponent, Cumberland County District Attorney David Freed, to denounce the spots.

Later, former President Bill Clinton made his second appearance at a Kane campaign event this year, this time urging on donors at a private fund-raiser in Philadelphia.

"These ads are not about truth, they are about politics," Kane said. "I'm tired of typical politicians like Dave Freed using innocent victims of sexual abuse as pawns in their political game."

Freed's camp reiterated Monday that it played no part in the advertisements, which were paid for by the Washington-based nonprofit Republican State Leadership Committee.

"She's deflecting all of these issues on her record, and focusing on these ads over which neither party has any control," said Tim Kelly, Freed's campaign manager.

The ads, which began airing in Philadelphia and Harrisburg last month, accuse Kane of exaggerating her record as a prosecutor in Lackawanna County and letting two men accused of rape off with light plea agreements.

The only problem, according to the nonpartisan FactCheck.org, is that Kane played almost no role in handling either of the cases cited in the ad.

Within hours of the spot's first airing, her campaign and the father of a 16-year-old victim in one of the cases denounced them as "vicious and false attacks."

The committee replaced its original ad with another last week that painted Kane as passing the blame for the plea deals onto others. And despite persistent criticism, the group said it stands by its claims.

Kane said Monday that she had spoken to Freed personally about the spots, and while she said he agreed that the ads were inaccurate, he supposedly told her he was powerless to do anything about them.

Freed's campaign disputed that account of the conversation. Kelly, his campaign manager, said Freed told Kane that the advertisements had nothing to do with his campaign, but the two never discussed their content.

"We live in a country where free speech is protected," Kelly said. "We can no more tell an independent group what to do than Kathleen Kane can tell an independent group what to do."

As a so-called 527 group, named for the section of the tax code under which it was created, the Republican State Leadership Committee can take in unlimited donations and is only periodically required to reveal its donor list. However, the group is prohibited from advertising on behalf of or coordinating with any specific campaign.

According to its latest filings with the IRS, the committee's largest donations last month came from the American Natural Gas Alliance, which gave $125,000, and Koch Industries, the Kansas-based firm led by Republican moneymen David H. and Charles G. Koch, which donated $100,000.

So far, the group's largest donor this campaign cycle has been insurance giant Blue Cross/Blue Shield which has given nearly $2.4 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

"It's like déjà vu all over again," said Jim Eisenhower, who ran as a Democrat for attorney general in 2000 and 2004.

During his last campaign, the Republican State Leadership Committee dumped $570,000 into the race between him and then-attorney general candidate Tom Corbett 10 days before the election. Eisenhower, standing by Kane's side Monday, blamed the ads that money bought for shifting the race to Corbett.

"I not only call on Dave Freed to denounce these ads," Eisenhower said, "I call on the citizens of Pennsylvania to say we're not going to be fooled again."

Contact Jeremy Roebuck at 267-564-5218, jroebuck@phillynews.com, or @jeremyrroebuck on Twitter.

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