Politics & Policy

Murkowski Calls Tea Party Ad Dishonest. Fact Checking Shows It’s Not.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s campaign has asked TV stations in Alaska not to air the latest Tea Party Express ad slamming her. The ad, which recounts Murkowski’s actions just before and after losing the GOP primary, was described by Murkowski attorney Timothy McKeever as “a false, misleading and deceptive advertisement.”

McKeever sent a letter to Alaskan TV stations yesterday, reminding them that they have “a responsibility to their viewers not to allow your facilities to be used to broadcast false and misleading information.” Adding that “when a station broadcasts false or incorrect advertisements, the station can be held liable for such action in a court of law and can lose their broadcasting license,” McKeever concluded that “the ad is materially false in many respects,” but did not specify what claims in the ad were false.

A Tea Party Express spokesman told the Associated Press that the group still backs the ad.

Looking at the claims in the ad, they all appear fairly solid, with the possible exception of whether Murkowski interfered in absentee ballot counting (that goes back to a Miller campaign allegation denied by the Murkowski campaign).

Claim 1: “Lisa Murkowski first got her U.S. senate seat when her father, Frank Murkowski, appointed her.”

From a 2002 New York Times story:

Joining the Bushes and Kennedys as an American political dynasty today were the Murkowskis of Alaska.

Frank H. Murkowski, who represented the state for 22 years in the Senate, was elected governor last month. Today, he appointed his daughter to fill the remaining two years of his six-year Senate term.

Claim 2: “Lisa promised that she would respect the will of the electorate in this year’s election and would support the winner of the Republican primary.”

From Alaska’s Peninsula Clarion (the paper referenced in the ad):

In a response to the final question, Miller said he would “of course” vote for Murkowski if she is elected to be the Republican candidate in the primary.

“But I’m going to win the primary,” he said.

Murkowski said she respects the electorate and would support whoever wins.

Claim 3: “She [Murkowski] tried to influence the absentee vote count.”

This claim goes back to post-primary dispute between the Murkowski and Miller campaigns about whether the Murkowski campaign and/or the National Republican Senatorial Committee were calling voters who had chosen to cast an absentee ballot to find out who they had voted for. Both the Murkowski campaign and the NRSC denied making any calls. From the Anchorage Daily News:

Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto said in an e-mail Saturday that there are many calls going out to Alaskans who voted absentee ballots, asking them who they voted for in the primary.

DeSoto said his basis for making that assertion is that a woman contacted the Miller campaign about getting a call, that such a call was brought up in the comment section of a story on the Daily News website, and that several people had called an Anchorage talk radio show to say they’ve received such calls.

“I believe, and time will prove it, (the calls) are being done for nefarious purposes,” DeSoto said in the e-mail. “It is definitely not being done by the Joe Miller campaign. It is being done, I believe, by the National Republican Senatorial Committee or someone they contracted with as the beginning of a legal battle to throw out ballots.”

It is public information who requests absentee ballots. Both the Murkowski campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Campaign on Saturday denied making calls to absentee voters. …

The Miller campaign did not have evidence on Saturday that it was the NRSC or the Murkowski campaign making calls. Miller spokesman DeSoto said he was working on getting details, including coming up with contact information for absentee voters who received calls asking how they voted.

Claim 4: “She [Murkowski] said she would concede.”

From Politico:

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski conceded the GOP nomination to attorney Joe Miller on Tuesday evening, becoming the third senator to lose renomination this cycle.

After a day of tallying outstanding ballots left her with a 1,630-vote deficit, Murkowski told reporters at a press conference outside her Anchorage campaign headquarters that she was dropping her reelection bid.

“I don’t see a scenario where the primary will turn out in my favor. And that is a reality that is before me at this point in time,” Murkowski told reporters.

Claim 5: “Then she [Murkowski] tried to manipulate the Libertarian party into giving her their slot on the ballot.”

From RealClearPolitics:

Ending weeks of speculation, Alaska Libertarian Party Senate nominee Frederick “David” Haase told RealClearPolitics on Monday that he would not allow Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski to replace his name on the general election Senate ballot. …

As of Monday morning, the Murkowski campaign had still been holding out hope that Haase might allow the incumbent senator to take his place on the general election ballot.

Claim 6: “And now, Lisa is trying to pretend she’s running to serve us. Yeah, right.”

From the Associated Press:

But she [Murkowski] told supporters – who greeted her at an Anchorage convention center with chants of “Run, Lisa, Run!” – that she couldn’t walk away and ignore the pleas of Alaskans who urged her to offer them a choice between the “extremist” views of Miller, a self-described constitutional conservative and tea party favorite, and the “inexperience” of Democrat Scott McAdams, a small-town mayor.

“So I am here to tell you, you are disenfranchised no more,” she said.

(Unless the Murkowski campaign is saying that the sarcastic “trying to pretend” is a materially false statement …)

Claim 7: “You lost, Lisa.”

From the Associated Press:

Murkowski trailed Miller, a Fairbanks attorney, by 1,668 votes after the Aug. 24 primary. Election officials began counting absentee and outstanding ballots Tuesday, and Murkowski made slight gains. But after more than 15,000 ballots were counted, she remained 1,630 votes behind.

“We all know that this has been a long week, a terribly long week,” she said at campaign headquarters while conceding.

Katrina TrinkoKatrina Trinko is a political reporter for National Review. Trinko is also a member of USA TODAY’S Board of Contributors, and her work has been published in various media outlets ...


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