Ad War Update: Son Of A Boss!

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 10 2012 @ 8:00am

by Chas Danner

The Obama campaign will air the above ad in five states. Aside from the continued tax-return pressure, the ad's new "Son of Boss" rhetoric is based on a new CNN op-ed:

[It] was written by two tax experts, who claim Romney was involved with the reporting of a $70 million fictional tax loss when he served on the board of Marriott International from 1993 to 1998. "During that period," the op-ed states. "Marriott engaged in a series of complex and high-profile maneuvers, including 'Son of Boss,' a notoriously abusive prepackaged tax shelter that investment banks and accounting firms marketed to corporations such as Marriott." … While Romney did not face criminal charges, unlike others linked to the scandal, the authors wrote "his endorsement of this stratagem provides insight into Romney's professional ethics and attitude toward tax compliance obligations."

It's also worth noticing that the ad subtly echoes Harry Reid's controversial claim that Romney didn't pay taxes for ten years. Meanwhile, the Romney camp put out a new ad claiming Obama has declared war on religion. In addition to quoting Pope John Paul II, the ad shows lots of footage from Romney's recent visit to Poland, including his chumminess with Lech Walesa:

The ad is clearly aimed at Catholic voters, with Obamacare's contraception policies as the cudgel. Another element to examine about this ad is that while it's the same thirty-second length as a TV ad, the Romney campaign has yet to release any information about the size or scope of the ad buy. Fox News reports that "Romney's campaign said it will air on television beginning Friday, but will not say where." Therefore it may just be a web video in the disguise of a TV ad, or a trial balloon for an attack strategy which the campaign may eventually put money behind – though it's hard to imagine which market would make sense for an ad with such a niche focus. Either way, both campaigns hope videos like this will get a lot of free airtime from news organizations as part of their normal campaign coverage. For instance, Think Progress tracked how often the cable news networks replayed the new Priorities USA ad that tries to connect Bain Capitol to a woman's death:

Sensing controversy, cable news outlets replayed the ad, by ThinkProgress’ estimate, 60 times in two days. Fox News and Fox Business provided the bulk of the coverage, mentioning and playing clips of the ad 26 times since Tuesday. CNN and MSNBC played it 15 and 12 times respectively.

And that doesn't count how many times broadcast stations may have replayed the ad. It's the equivalent of an ad going old-media viral, and such free amplification is likely the hope of every campaign with every video they produce – provided the attention isn't universally negative. However, it's also worth noting that another thirty-second maybe-TV ad from Team Romney, the one implying Obama doesn't care about Israel enough, did eventually get a tiny bit of airtime ($50K worth and only in West Palm Beach, FL).

In outside spending news, GOP Super PAC American Future Fund has a whacky Olympics-themed ad out (full of some standard debunked claims) hitting Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). And a new Super PAC from George Soros' son Jonathan called Friends Of Democracy has put $700K into an ad campaign targeting four Republican congressman who are opponents of campaign finance reform. Another pro-Dem Super PAC, House Majority PAC, has teamed with AFSCME and SEIU to go after the conservative stalwart, Congressman Steve King (R-IA):

Lastly, here's an Ad War headline of the day: "West decries ad depicting him punching women". That's in reference to Congressman Allen West (R-FL) – click through for the ad and hoopla, and ugh.

Ad War archive here.