Ad ties Cardin to interests

Campaign Ad Watch

October 18, 2006|By MATTHEW HAY BROWN

Republican Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's campaign for U.S. Senate began airing a television commercial yes terday that contrasted Democratic U.S. Rep. Benja min L. Cardin's declarations of independence from special interests with the amounts of money he has received from drug, oil and insurance companies.

What the ad says: After the obligatory claim of re sponsibility -- "I'm Michael Steele, and I approved this message" -- it's all Cardin: His is the only face seen and the only voice heard for the rest of the 30-second spot. The footage, framed in a television-screen-shaped box, comes from his Aug. 31 primary debate against Kweisi Mfume.

"I've stood up to the drug companies," Cardin says, gesturing at the camera.

As his words reverberate, his image fades and a printed rejoinder appears: "... but CARDIN took $89,000 from Drug Companies."

Cardin reappears.

"I've stood up to the oil companies," he says. More text: "Cardin's taken oil and gas money for 20 YEARS."

"I've stood up to the insurance industry," Cardin says. The response: "Cardin's taken $563,267 from in surance companies."

"I'm proud of my record," Cardin says. "Judge me on my record."

"Cardin's taken more special interest money than any Maryland Senator. EVER," the text reads. "Ben Cardin won't change Washington. He'll fit right in."

A release from the Steele campaign cites the Center for Responsive Politics, Federal Elections Commis sion and PoliticalMoneyLine as sources for the in formation.

The facts: Cardin, who entered Congress in 1987, has received $563,267 from the insurance industry since 1989, according to opensecrets.org, the Web site of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. He has received contributions from the energy indus try during every campaign cycle since his first run for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986, accord ing to an online database maintained by Political MoneyLine. The drug-industry figure could not be independently verified yesterday.

Cardin has raised $4,610,498 from political action committees to help fund his 10 campaigns for the House and his current bid for Senate since 1986, according to PoliticalMoneyLine. U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski has collected $4,299,562 in PAC money to help fund her four campaigns for the Senate during the same period.

But if one includes Mikulski's House campaigns going back to 1980, the first year for which records are available on the PoliticalMoneyLine Web site, her PAC total increases to $4,641,107. That figure does not include the elections of 1976, when she first won a seat in Congress, or 1978, when she defended it.

Cardin has raised $741,119 in PAC money for this year's Senate race, according to PoliticalMoney Line. Steele has collected $681,765 in PAC money, and has raised more from energy and natural re sources PACs than Cardin during the current cycle, the Web site shows.

The Cardin campaign responded to the advertise ment yesterday by saying that Steele had raised more than $6.6 million from PACs and businesses as a Senate candidate, lieutenant governor, chairman of the state Republican Party and candidate for state comptroller. The figure could not be indepen dently verified yesterday.

Analysis: The advertisement marks a departure for the Steele campaign, which has generated attention with its light-hearted spots. Gone are the Boston terrier, the trash cans and, except for the brief ap pearance at the beginning, Steele himself.

In their place, the campaign criticizes Cardin direct ly for taking PAC money -- but does not indicate how those contributions influenced Cardin's votes.

The commercial, which was funded in part by the Na tional Republican Senatorial Committee, comes days after a new Cardin ad sought to link Steele to Presi dent Bush. Steele's more aggressive approach comes as he continues to trail in the polls. A Rasmussen Re ports survey released this week showed Cardin with a 7 percentage-point lead over Steele. The poll had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

Matthew Hay Brown

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