Susan Bysiewicz acknowledges aspects of her latest ad attacking Chris Murphy are “incorrect” but she said the campaign has no plans to pull it.
Murphy, whose lawyers have gotten involved and asked TV stations to pull the spot, called the admission “sad and a little frightening.”
The comments came Sunday after their last debate before the Aug. 14 primary. The two Democrats are running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
At issue is a 30-second commercial focusing on campaign contributions Murphy has taken from Wall Street donors since being elected to Congress. While the ad and a web site launched to accompany it incorrectly classify several donors as Wall Street contributors, the most glaring inaccuracy is Bysiewicz’s statement that Murphy had taken more money from hedge fund donors than any other Democrat in Congress.
Bysiewicz said the statement was incorrect but the ad will remain on the air because the general point she was trying to make still holds true: Chris Murphy has received significant financial support from Wall Street donors—to the tune of $700,000 since 2006— and voted for their interests.
“The ad was incorrect. He’s number four in terms of the hedge funds, he’s not number one… I point out in the ad, and this is the main point of the ad, that he’s taken huge amounts of money from Wall Street and then voted to support their loophole,” she told reporters.
Bysiewicz is referring to a 2010 vote in which Murphy voted against legislation which primarily extended unemployment compensation before being amended to offer tax breaks to specific populations. It changed the tax treatment of carried interest, which is the main source of income for hedge-fund managers.
The vote, which Murphy said was because of other provisions in the bill, has been a frequent talking point for Bysiewicz in a primary season during which she’s tried to frame herself as the only candidate willing to stand up to Wall Street special interests.
“I think it’s resonating with Democratic voters because I’m speaking to voters across the state who want a senator who’s going to stand up for the middle class,” she said.
Asked if she would stop running the ad, Bysiewicz said she would under one condition.
“I’ll take down the ad if Chris Murphy goes ahead and gives back his $700,000 to Wall Street,” she said.
Murphy, who passed up an opportunity to address some of Bysiewicz’s Wall Street criticisms during the debate, told reporters afterward that his lawyers have asked all TV stations to stop running the ad. The stations likely have a Federal Communications Commission obligation to pull it, since the campaign has admitted it contains inaccuracies, he said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve never seen a campaign come out and admit that the central claim in an ad is a fiction, then not be willing to pull the ad. If Susan is continuing to insist on running the ad it reflects a denial of reality that is both sad and a little frightening,” he said.
Policy wise, there’s little difference between the positions of Bysiewicz and Murphy on most issues. When the two last debated, moderator Ned Lamont said their similarities were problematic for Democrats struggling to choose. However, Murphy said Bysiewicz’s insistence on running the ad may highlight a key difference between the candidates.
“People have been searching for a difference between the two of us over the course of this race and the difference may be emerging. Susan is will to do anything and say anything in order to make this race more competitive including running an ad that her own campaign acknowledges is false,” he said.
During the debate Bysiewicz reaffirmed Wall Street reform as her top priority if elected to the Senate. The position gave her ample opportunities to criticize Murphy for the 2010 vote. Meanwhile, Murphy, the frontrunner in the race, largely resisted counter attacking his opponent.
For his part, Murphy said his top priority would be jobs.
“Boy, if you’re going to elect a United States senator whose priority isn’t jobs, isn’t putting people back to work, then you’ve made the wrong vote,” he said.
At times Murphy was looking past the primary to the General Election. More than once he referenced Linda McMahon, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. It’s a tactic McMahon also used last week while she was debating her primary opponent former U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays. McMahon targeted Murphy during that debate and it wasn’t lost on the Democrat.
“Linda McMahon spent the better part of her debate last week talking about me… Her unique wealth means that I’ve got to be fighting both the primary and the general election at the same time. I don’t take the primary for granted but I do need voters to understand today the differences between myself and Linda McMahon,” Murphy said.