Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fear and Smear: The Republican Campaign To Regain Control Of Congress Has Begun

By now, we've all seen the ads targeting Harry Mitchell as well as Gabrielle Giffords and other freshman Dems in the House.

You know, the spots that open with ominous music then slickly warns folks that the law that allows the U.S. government to eavesdrop on terrorists has expired because the House didn't vote on and approve the Senate-passed expansion of the FISA act. It then goes on to recommend that viewers to call their Congressional representative and urge them to pass that Senate-approved bill.

It very effectively plays on viewers' fears.

However, as documents here, the spot is more than a little light on facts and heavy on misinformation and outright lies.

The biggest lie is also one of the first ones in the piece - FISA, the law that allows for surveillance of foreign terror suspects has *not* expired; only the temporary expansion that was passed last summer has.

Another lie, or at least a misstatement of the truth, is that this is all the House's fault. In fact, the House passed a long-term expansion and update of FISA in November. The Senate is the group that waited until the last minute to pass an amended version.

One that needed to go to conference to resolve the differences. One of those differences is that the Senate version includes retroactive immunity for telecoms while the House version does not include it - and the White House desperately wants it. In fact, they are so desperate that Bush has pledged to veto any bill that does *not* include a retroactive immunity provision.

The spots were created by an extreme right-wing front group named Defense of Democracies. That group is an offshoot of another far-right group, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The FDD is headed by a former spokesman for the RNC (Clifford May) with directors that include former GOP candidates for president (Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp.)

On its website, the group professes to be "non-partisan" but the spots only target Democrats.

One of those targets, CD5's Harry Mitchell, has weighed in on the topic of the spots and the FISA expansion issue itself in a campaign email -

Dear Friend,

Old Washington politics and special interests are back at it again. And, they are willing to do anything - lie, cheat or steal - to beat me this fall.

You've probably seen the ads on TV, deceptive and sickening ads. I am one of 15 Representatives in the country they are spending millions of dollars on to spread this filth.

I can take a lot of criticism. As an elected official and a leader, I expect it.

But I won't stand by and let someone attack my patriotism. It's my love of this country that compelled me to teach government for so many years and eventually run for office.

I believe in service. I believe in America. And I refuse to be anyone's rubber stamp.

If we are going to infringe on privacy rights because we believe there is a necessary security issue, then we must carefully consider and debate the issue.

This extremist fear machine, funded by some of the most radical elements of the far right, would have you believe that my rational position helps Bin Laden. That's just disgusting.

Let's be clear. These ridiculous accusations are not about a policy or even how I may vote.

This is scaring the American public for one reason - to stop positive changes from happening in Washington, DC.

Enough is enough.

Help out Harry or Gabby - they're going to face tough, nasty, and just plain dirty tactics this year as the Republicans desperately try to retake control of Congress.

As an aside, many Republicans have said that telecoms that allow or facilitate the wiretaps do so out of patriotism.

What they don't say is that corporate patriotism only lasts as long as the bills are paid, as this article (AP via MSNBC) indicates -

Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.


In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation "was halted due to untimely payment," the audit found.

The DOJ audit is here.'s take on the spots here; SourceWatch's wiki on the Foundation here.

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