A hard-hitting TV ad that has been widely denounced as offensive could have an impact in next week’s hard-fought Democratic primary election in Arkansas. The group behind the ad is run by an up-and-coming GOP operative, but won’t say who’s funding it.
The GOP-tied conservative advocacy group Americans for Job Security has said it’s spending $900,000 — a hefty sum in the state’s relatively inexpensive media market — to run a TV ad that accuses Lt. Gov. Bill Halter of shipping jobs to India when he helped run a tech company. On top of stereotypical “Indian” images and music, actors playing Indians thank Halter. The candidate has called the ads “despicable,” and even his opponent, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, has labeled them “offensive.”
The ads will run through Friday — just five days before the primary.
AJS, founded in 1997, says it advocates “free markets and pro-paycheck public policy.” It was a key opponent of the Employee Free Choice Act, which Democrats and labor sought unsuccessfully to advance last year. On its website, the group explains why it does not disclose its members or donors: “Too often politicians or the media define an organization or message not by the merits of the argument, but rather by the perception of the people associated with it. We would rather the people decide on merits instead of name-calling.”
AJS’s president, Stephen DeMaura, is a former executive director of the New Hampshire GOP, though he’s still in his mid twenties. In 2007, he gained brief notoriety as the creator of the “Stop Hillary Clinton: (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary),” Facebook group,
a play on the Facebook group “Barack Obama: (One Million Strong for Barack),” group. DeMaura also is the founder of NHInsider.com, a frequently updated New Hampshire political news site. DeMaura did not respond to a request for comment.
Halter, too wants to know who’s behind the ads. His campaign has filed an FEC complaint against the ads, charging that the ads constitute a direct attack on him, rather than issue advocacy, and therefore their funding needs to be disclosed. AJS has disagreed, calling the ads “true issue advocacy.”