LANSING, Mich. — Democratic senators up for re-election in five states are being targeted by issue ads run by the conservative 60 Plus Association, but one senator being hit says the ads are full of false claims already debunked by independent fact-checkers.
The 60-second ads feature singer Pat Boone warning senior citizens about portions of the federal health care law he says could harm their Medicare benefits and are identical to an ad run last November in Ohio targeting Sen. Sherrod Brown.
This time the ads are also aimed at Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. All are Democratic incumbents running for re-election this year, and all except Tester are in battleground states that could prove crucial to President Barack Obama's re-election chances in November.
The Virginia-based 60 Plus Association bills itself as the conservative alternative to the AARP. Founder and chairman Jim Martin said the organization is spending $3.5 million to run the ads for two weeks in the five states and plans to spend "substantially more" on future issue ads in the senators' home states.
"They're up for re-election, and we're trying to get their attention with this vote on Obamacare," he said of the senators in a phone interview Tuesday.
He added that he expects the health care law "will be a major issue, certainly for seniors" in this year's elections. The association is co-sponsoring a March 27 "Hands Off My Health Care" rally in Washington, D.C., with Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax group founded by conservative billionaire David Koch.
Stabenow's campaign called the association "an out-of-state special interest front group" and noted that it has supported privatizing a portion of Social Security benefits and recently run ads promoting a plan promoted by Republican congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would move from Medicare to private health insurance for future retirees, two changes Stabenow opposes.
"It's no wonder a special interest front group that wants to end Medicare would run these ads in Michigan," campaign spokesman Nate Byer said in a release. "Unfortunately in politics these days, when you stand up to powerful special interests, they run false ads about you to mislead voters."
In reviewing the ad run only against Brown last November, nonpartisan FactCheck.org said it misled seniors "by making false claims about the (health care) law's effect on Medicare."
"We've been over some of the assertions that Boone makes more times than we care to count. But our fact-checking persistence hasn't stopped groups like 60 Plus from repeating the claims. And repeating them, and repeating them," the ad analysis said.
The ads began running Monday and will run through March 25. They're airing on broadcast stations in Michigan, Ohio and Missouri and on broadcast and cable stations in Florida and Montana at a cost of $1.1 million in Florida, $850,000 in Michigan, $720,000 in Ohio, $450,000 in Missouri and $350,000 in Montana, a 60 Plus spokeswoman said.