Karl Rove’s PR firm, American Crossroads, has finally come out with its much-anticipated ad hatcheting Alexi Giannoulias. The Giannoulias campaign was complaining about the ad before they’d even seen it, just because Rove was involved. They called American Crossroads a “front group -- funded by undisclosed contributions from corporate special interests.”
But does the ad play it straight? Our verdict: Truthish. Here's why.
First, some background on American Crossroads. According to an article in The New York Times, American Crossroads is a “sister organization” of Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies, which is a 501(c)(4) non-profit. That means less than half of Crossroads Grassroots Political Strategies' activities are supposed to be political. It also means donors can give money anonymously.
“Since August, however, Crossroads GPS has spent far more on television advertising on Senate races than American Crossroads, which must disclose its donors,” the Times reported.
The tagline on the new ad says it was produced by American Crossroads, but Rove is using both pools of money to promote his candidates.
The ad itself rehashes charges that Illinoisans have heard over and over again in the year-plus since Giannoulias announced his candidacy. As an animated Giannoulias drives an SUV through a generic urban landscape, a narrator sneers, “Alexi Giannoulias is quite a driver. He helped drive his family’s Broadway Bank into the ditch. Now, as treasurer and head of the Bright Start college savings fund, Alexi fell asleep at the wheel. Under Giannoulias, Illinois families lost $150 million they had saved to pay for college, but spent $26,000 in Bright Start funds to buy an SUV.”
What more can be said about Broadway Bank? Giannoulias was senior loan officer from 2001 until 2005. The bank was seized by federal regulators this year.
The claim that Bright Start lost $150 million in 2008 and 2009 comes directly from the Chicago Tribune. Again, it’s up to voters to decide how much responsibility Giannoulias bears for the losses. Almost every state’s investments were losing money during that period, and Giannoulias did not over-invest in CorePlus, the fund responsible for a large portion of the losses.
The SUV issue was first raised by the Chicago Tribune in May 2009. At the time, Giannoulias defended the purchase of the 2008 Ford Escape, saying it would be used by Bright Start marketers to travel the state, promoting the program. The vehicle was also used by Giannoulias and other Treasury employees for business unrelated to Bright Start. According to the Tribune, the SUV was not paid for out of investments, but “from a fee the firm that handles the investments pays to the treasurer’s office to offset the cost of running the program.”
This ad has to be rated as “Truthish.” You may not agree with its conclusions, but its few facts can be backed up.