Kathleen Kane denounces ad attacking opponent David Freed

Posted: October 25, 2012

The Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania attorney general came to the defense of an unlikely target Tuesday - her opponent.

Responding to a TV ad attacking Republican David Freed's record on public-corruption cases, Democrat Kathleen Kane termed the ad "misleading" and called on the super PAC behind it to pull it off the air.

Her plea for accuracy in advertising is the latest twist in a race that has attracted more than $1 million in spending from outside groups whose ads have become hot-button campaign issues in their own right.

"This is not an ad from my campaign - neither I nor any of my staff or advisers saw it in advance or knew of its content - but that does not mean that I do not have a responsibility to speak out," Kane said of the anti-Freed spots that began airing Tuesday.

Freed campaign manager Tim Kelly was less than impressed with Kane's disavowal.

"That's great," he said. "But it doesn't change the fact that the false ad is still running."

The $384,000 ad buy, paid for by the Washington-based Committee for Justice and Fairness, tries to paint Freed as lenient on corruption during his tenure as Cumberland County district attorney.

The spots are airing only in the Pittsburgh and Harrisburg markets and are scheduled to continue through Election Day, according to federal filings.

They feature a narrator deeply intoning over images of former State House Speaker John M. Perzel, who is serving a prison sentence on corruption charges, and convicted molester Jerry Sandusky. Voting for Freed, the voice-over asserts, is tantamount to "letting insiders escape accountability and leaving the door open for more cover-ups."

'Off-base'

Kelly rejected that characterization Tuesday, pointing to a list of public officials, including state government employees, local township officials, and a county commissioner, whom Freed's office prosecuted during his two terms in Cumberland County.

"To imply that Dave somehow went lightly on Harrisburg insiders is more than a little off-base," the campaign aide said.

Kane, a former Lackawanna County prosecutor, said she was quite familiar with the effects of misleading attacks.

Last month, a Republican-aligned group spent more than half a million dollars to air spots questioning her record on sexual-assault cases.

Those advertisements, paid for by the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee, alleged she had offered light plea deals in two rape cases while working as an assistant prosecutor in Lackawanna County.

'Blatantly false'

The spot was panned by independent fact-checkers as "one of the most blatantly false attack ads of the political season." Kane had been only tangentially involved in the prosecution of either case.

In her campaign, she has repeatedly faulted Freed for not taking a stronger stand in denouncing the ads as false.

"I understand that he has no control over who runs ads, but I do expect a candidate for attorney general to stand up for the truth," she said during a Monday night debate.

For his part, Freed has said the ads have hurt him more than they have helped. But he has stopped short of calling any of their claims inaccurate.

"I am disappointed in that ad. It is not the ad that I would have run," he responded in Monday's debate.

The Republican State Leadership Committee, which funnels money into statewide races across the country, has received big-ticket donations this election cycle, such as $2.4 million from the insurance giant Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

The Committee for Justice and Fairness, the group behind the anti-Freed ads, is funded entirely by donations from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, a Colorado-based nonprofit focused on electing its party's candidates to state prosecutors' offices.

The latter organization has raised more than $5.3 million this year with a contributor list that includes Google, the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, Citigroup, and the Teamsters.

The association has also given at least $100,000 directly to Kane's campaign since the primary - contributions Freed's campaign suggested Tuesday she should give back.

Also Tuesday, Kane began airing her own TV ads in a statewide buy - her first of the general-election season.

Those spots highlight her time in Lackawanna County courtrooms and resuscitate her slogan "prosecutor, not a politician" from her primary run.

Freed plans to launch his statewide TV ad campaign Wednesday, Kelly said.


Contact Jeremy Roebuck

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

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