The already heated Arkansas Democratic Senate primary race between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Governor Bill Halter hit a boiling point this weekend, just three days before early voting starts.
On Friday night, Americans for Job Security launched a television commercial featuring Indians in their native dress superimposed over scenes from a foreign street bazaar. In the ad, the Asians thank Halter for outsourcing jobs to Bangalore, India. The ad sent shock waves through Arkansas political circles on both sides (click play below to watch).
Americans for Job Security has bought $780,925 worth of television air time in Little Rock, Fort Smith and Jonesboro – the state's three big media markets – from May 3 to May 14.
On Saturday morning Lincoln denounced the ad.
"I condemn the television ad reportedly scheduled to air in Arkansas sponsored by a group called Americans for Job Security," Lincoln said. "It is offensive and doesn't belong in Arkansas. As a victim myself of constant negative attack ads by outside third party groups since early March, I deeply regret that their participation in this campaign isn't more constructive."
In a debate on April 24, Halter said to Lincoln, "Why don't you ask the folks who are running ads claiming that I am privatizing Social Security to identify themselves? We have no idea who they are." Lincoln said she would like the third parties to make their identities clear, "instead of making cagy names, or putting them at the bottom of their ads, or their postcards, or anything else."
Americans for Job Security does not attribute any source for the statements against Halter that it makes in its commercial.
"The ad repeats a charge that is false -- the company on whose board Lt. Gov. Bill Halter served expanded its operations in India and there is no evidence that it outsourced jobs" the Halter campaign said in a statement. "Meanwhile, thousands of Arkansans have seen their jobs shipped overseas thanks to votes from Sen. Lincoln." Lincoln supported NAFTA, CAFTA, and other trade deals.
Eight Republicans are vying for the party's nomination on May 18. And a recent poll shows Halter as a stronger candidate than Lincoln against any of them in the General Election. In Washington, the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics has described Americans for Job Security as "pro-Republican."
But the conservative Chamber of Commerce apparently prefers Sen. Lincoln at this stage of the campaign, and has purchased an additional $600,000 worth of ads on her behalf.
According to a 2004 article in the Texas Observer, Americans for job security is a 501 (c) (6) organization. The article said that it's "estimated the group has spent about $26 million on political races all over the nation, including $8.5 million in 2002 and $7.5 million in 2000." The group's website states "Americans for Job Security has been active with issue advocacy campaigns in over 98 media markets in 46 States and the District of Columbia." Started in 1997, the site states that the group is "the only independent, bipartisan, pro-business issue advocacy organization in America." It has raised $40 million in membership dues.
And its members? From The group's website: "Our members are businesses, business leaders and entrepreneurs from around the country. AJS does not disclose or discuss its membership further than this. 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."
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