Every campaign season, independent groups on both sides drop huge sums on attack ads targeting the presidential candidates. Sometimes, people even notice. (See: Boat Veterans for Truth, Swift.) But, for the most part, they sail under the radar.
So in case you’re not living in a swing neighborhood of a swing district of a swing state, where these ads air constantly, Trailhead will be tracking the latest ads from these 527 s—so named for their tax-code status—and other independent groups, such as 501(c)4s, that are diving into the fray. We’ll tell you who’s behind them, what they want, and just how sneaky their claims are. Depending on this last part, we assign between one and four Swift Boats.
Founder: Jill Stanek, former nurse and anti-abortion activist.
Funding: Raymond Ruddy, pro-life philanthropist from Massachusetts, donated $350,000 for the ad after Stanek contacted him.
Cost of the Ad: $350,000
Where it ran: Ohio and New Mexico
Claims: Barack Obama voted “no” on the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act in Illinois, which would have provided legal protection to infants born alive during abortions and unlikely to survive.
Accuracy: Obama opposed the bill in 2001 and 2002 as a backdoor attack on abortion. He said, though, that he would vote for it if it included a “neutrality clause” that would prevent it from affecting Roe v. Wade . But when a version with a neutrality clause came to the floor in 2003, Obama again voted “no.” The ad is correct about Obama’s voting record, but the group takes some liberties with the reasoning behind his votes. (Check out Factcheck.org’s analysis here .)
Background: Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor, narrates the short spot. Her story is corroborated with her birth certificate, which says she was born during an unsuccessful third-trimester saline abortion . Jill Stanek, the group’s founder, worked as a registered nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill. After discovering that the hospital performed “partial birth abortions,” she began publicly advertising the fact. Stanek and Jessen both testified before Congress in 2000 and lobbied heavily to get the 2002 federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act passed.
The group originally listed its purpose on IRS forms “informing the public of Barack Obama’s support of infanticide,” but after talking to lawyers this summer, Stanek says, they changed their description to “inform the public about issues related to laws concerning infants who are born alive after unsuccessful abortions.” Stanek says the group’s core goal is still the same. (See the group’s original filing here and the amended filing here .)
Swift Boat Rating:
While in the Illinois State Senate, Obama did vote “no” four times to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, even when the bill contained the neutrality clause. The ad’s claims are accurate even if the logic is a bit off.