APPC calculates dollars spent by four highest spending third party groups on deceptive TV ads

For Immediate Release

April 27, 2012

Contact: Kathleen Hall Jamieson at info@flackcheck.org or 215-898-9400

Drawing on spending estimates from Kantar Media CMAG and the fact checking of FactCheck.org, the Annenberg Public Policy Center has created a dollars in deception measure (DDs) calculating dollars spent on televised presidential third party ads by the groups calling themselves “The Red White and Blue Fund,” “Winning Our Future,” “Restore Our Future,” and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

From Iowa through Wisconsin, 23.3 million (56.7%) of the 41.1 million dollars were spent on 19 ads containing deceptive or misleading claims.

Most of the dollars in deception (an estimated $20.8 million) were aired by the pro-Romney super PAC “Restore Our Future” (estimated 8.8 million DDs–dollars in deception–attacking former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an estimated 9.4 million DDs attacking former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, and an estimated 2.6 million in DDs making the case for the election of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney).

“Restore Our Future” outspent the pro-Gingrich and pro-Santorum super PACs by 20 to 1.


The study also found:

  • The other three third party presidential groups spent an estimated 2.5 million DDs attacking former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney:
    • The pro-Santorum super PAC “Red White and Blue Fund” spent an estimated $685,050
    • The pro-Gingrich super PAC “Winning Our Future” an estimated $917,670
    • The pro-Democratic labor union American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees an estimated $846,380

“Restore Our Future” spent DDs against Gingrich and Santorum on such deceptions as:

  • “Gingrich not only teamed up with Nancy Pelosi on global warming, but together they co-sponsored a bill that gave $60 million a year to a U.N. program supporting China’s brutal ‘One Child’ policy.” (est. $2,394,813)
  • Two versions of a claim against Santorum:
    • “Santorum voted to let convicted felons vote.” Ad shows visual of men walking in orange prison jumpsuits, suggesting felons currently serving their time would be allowed to vote. (est. $4,849,010)
    • “With your values, how would you have voted? Would you have voted to let convicted violent felons regain the right to vote? Rick Santorum voted ‘yes,’ joining Hillary Clinton.” Ad shows visual of men walking in orange prison jumpsuits, suggesting felons currently serving their time would be allowed to vote. (est. $3,879,830)

The pro-Santorum super PAC “Red White and Blue Fund” made this deceptive claim:

  • “Romney left Massachusetts $1 billion in debt.” (est. $603,140)

The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future made the following deceptive claim against Romney:

  •  “Romneycare costs spiraled out of control, hiking premiums squeezing household budgets.” (est. $412,530)

The amounts spent on television ads advancing the deceptive claims (when multiple misleading claims appeared in the same ad, the total spent airing the ad is apportioned by claim):

  • “While Romney was a director at the Damon Corporation, the company was defrauding Medicare of millions.” Ad shows visual of Mitt Romney morphing into Florida Governor Rick Scott, who was accused of Medicare fraud, while Romney was not, with text and voiceover saying: “Corporate Greed, Medicare Fraud. Sound Familiar?” (AFSCME, est. $423,190)
  • “The company was fined $100 million, but Romney, himself, made a fortune.” Ad shows visual of Mitt Romney morphing into Florida Governor Rick Scott, who was accused of Medicare fraud, while Romney was not, with text and voiceover saying: “Corporate Greed, Medicare Fraud. Sound Familiar?” (AFSCME, est. $423,190)
  • “Romney supervised a company guilty of massive Medicare fraud” Visual in ad called “Blood Money” pastes the text, “ILLEGAL ACTIVITY…UNDER ROMNEY’S NOSE.” A shorter version of the ad pastes the text, “Company (in small print) GUILTY OF MASSIVE MEDICARE FRAUD (in large, bold print)” over Romney’s face, and pastes the text, “ILLEGAL ACTIVITY” over an image of Romney. (“Winning Our Future,” est. $325,980)
  • “Romney left Massachusetts $1 billion in debt.” (“Red White and Blue Fund,” est. $603,140)
  • “Meet the Real Mitt Romney: Supported the Wall Street Bailout, putting Americans trillions in debt” (“Red White and Blue Fund,” est. $81,910)
  • “Romneycare costs spiraled out of control hiking premiums, squeezing household budgets” (“Winning Our Future,” est. $412,530)
  • “[Romney] thinks judges can overrule parents on abortions.” (“Winning Our Future,” est. $179,160)
  • “Gingrich not only teamed up with Nancy Pelosi on global warming, but together they co-sponsored a bill that gave $60 million a year to a U.N. program supporting China’s brutal ‘One Child’ policy.” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $2,394,813)
  • “Newt was fined $300,000 for ethics violations” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $2,440,769)
  • “Gingrich took $1.6 million dollars from Freddie Mac just before it helped cause the economic meltdown” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $2,211,690)
  • “With your values, how would you have voted? Would you have voted to let convicted violent felons regain the right to vote? Rick Santorum voted ‘yes,’ joining Hillary Clinton.” Ad shows visual of men walking in orange prison jumpsuits, suggesting felons currently serving their time would be allowed to vote. (“Restore Our Future,” est. $3,879,830)
  • “Santorum voted to let convicted felons vote.” Ad shows visual of men walking in orange prison jumpsuits, suggesting felons currently serving their time would be allowed to vote. (“Restore Our Future,” est. $4,849,010)
  • “While Newt was speaker, earmarks exploded.” Ad shows on-screen text: “While Newt Was Speaker, Earmarks Nearly Doubled To $14.5 Billion.” Fact checking found this figure to be inaccurate. (“Restore Our Future,” est. $1,255,480)
  • “As speaker, Gingrich supported tax payer funding of some abortions.” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $152,237)
  • “On the economy, Rick Santorum says, ‘I don’t care what the unemployment rate’s gonna be.’” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $696,990)
  • “Freddie Mac helped cause the economic collapse, but Gingrich cashed in. Freddie Mac paid Newt $30,000 an hour, $1.6 million.” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $325,583)
  • “[Romney] turned a deficit into a surplus without raising taxes.” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $2,486,785)
  • “[Mitt Romney] took over a state facing huge deficits, and he turned it around without raising taxes, vetoing hundreds of bills.” (“Restore Our Future,” est. $154,765)

To see a video release illustrating these findings and an analysis of what is deceptive about each of these claims, click here to go to FlackCheck.org’s “Stand by Your Ad” deception log.

Download this press release as a PDF file.