Maybe you've seen the latest Republican TV ad in support of 2nd Congressional District candidate John Koster, urging voters to "Take the Right Path, Vote Against Rick Larsen," the Democrat incumbent. If so, then you've effectively seen the Republican TV ad in support of 3rd Congressional District candidate Jaime Herrera, urging voters to "Take the Right Path, Vote Against Denny Heck," the Democrat challenger. You've also effectively seen the same repetitious ads being run against 14 other Democrats in 12 other states - all stamped out assembly line-style by the shadowy American Future Fund, one of an array of mostly anonymous conservative groups that are outspending liberal groups 7-1 for political advertising.
The Post says $80 million, half of it untraceable, has been spent on this year's races by such secretive organizations - AAF has spent around $3 million of its $7,720,233 in the past few weeks alone, targeting Larsen, Heck and other Dems.
AFF professes to be, according to its web site, a home-grown Iowa 501(c)(4) "established as a multi- state issues advocacy group designed to effectively communicate conservative and free market ideals." But as its ads reflect, it's a corporate political organization hiding behind the non-profit label. As the Iowa Independent reported in 2008 about AFF:
A network of Iowa Republicans is playing a leading role in a secretive group advocating nationally on behalf of "conservative and free market ideals" in congressional races around the country. Among the group's leaders are two media consultants who played key roles in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads in 2004 and the Willie Horton ad in 1988, both of which helped defeat Democratic presidential candidates.
The group spreads exaggerated and false claims and refuses to disclose who is pumping money into its non-profit coffers (it plans to spend $25 million on U.S. political races this season). NPR says AFF's leadership is a "collection of professionals who worked for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney." Hypocrisy abounds: supposedly an advocate for less government spending, Sandra Greiner, AAF president, and her family received $935,000 in federal subsidies for their farm in Eastern Iowa.
But then, in today's politics, there's no penalty for lying, and the Citizens United decision has helped make it that much easier. As Keith Olbermann put it last night, voters are confronted with "faceless, nameless corporate interests...using unprecedented sums of cash, possibly some of it foreign," to further their agendas.
The "Henry Ford Style" ads: