A dark-money super PAC will spend half a million dollars airing ads attacking Secretary of State Ross Miller with exaggerations and outright falsehoods.
That could have been the lead of a news story about a new attack ad mounted by an outfit called the State Government Leadership Foundation, a 501(c)(4) “social benefit” organization that’s legally allowed to shield its donors from public view. However, the group was started with corporate funds from companies such as Exxon Mobil, Time Warner and Pfizer, and mostly attacks Democrats.
Here’s how the organization describes itself on its website:
The State Government Leadership Foundation (SGLF) spotlights hotbed issues and conservative policies that state government officials wrestle with most. For too long, out-of-touch leaders in the states have colluded with special interests to raise taxes, swell state budgets, and increase the size of government. The SGLF is taking the lead on educating elected and appointed state government officials, providing support to local officeholders, and highlighting meaningful, conservative solutions. The SGLF is a 501 (c)(4) social welfare organization and is a strategic partner of the the Republican State Leadership Committee, one of the largest conservative caucuses in the country.
And the Republican State Leadership Committee, of course, is the Ed Gillespie, Karl Rove-founded organization that works to develop the GOP bench by electing Republicans to down-ballot races. So says the group on its website:
The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) is the largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the country and the only national organization whose mission is to elect down-ballot, state-level Republican officeholders. Since 2002, the RSLC has been working to elect candidates to the office of lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state legislator.
Ironically enough, a Republican attorneys general group split off from the Republic State Leadership Committee in January amid tensions between the two. But that’s surely not enough to stop them from attacking Miller, a formidable candidate for AG and perhaps governor down the road.
Which brings us to the ad, dubbed “Miller’s house of cards,” to dovetail with a website that’s been around for awhile. Here’s the ad:
The ad hits Miller first for “traveling the globe” on somebody else’s nickel. The only international trip, however, appears to be one in which Miller joined other secretaries of state in Taiwan, at a conference underwritten by that nation’s government.
Miller is depicted — often through photos he posted himself on social media — hanging with celebrities, including former Girls Next Door star Holly Madison. (She’s incorrectly identified as a Playboy Playmate; although she has appeared nude in the magazine with her Girls co-stars, she’s never actually been a Playmate.)
This part of the ad should backfire; hanging out with celebrities — especially celebrities such as Madison — is a bad thing now? A person can’t be a serious candidate for public office but have fun in his personal life on his own time? I suppose Republicans would never, ever want to hang out with the likes of Madison, for fear of damaging their future political careers? It’s pathetic and it smacks of the kind of jealousy dorky underclassmen feel for the quarterback who dates the head cheerleader. Plus, Madison is a constituent!
The ad next hits Miller for accepting $60,000 in gifts and travel from special interests, the ad says. And here’s it’s important to note two things: One, the reason the State Government Leadership Foundation knows about all of that is because Miller made the legally required disclosures.
Two, Miller has been at the forefront of demanding greater transparency in Nevada’s laws for all elected officials, efforts that have met with characteristic resistance among lawmakers (including, it must be said, state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, who is running to replace Miller as secretary of state).
Should Miller have turned down all gifts and all offers of travel, even though none violated the law? One could argue that, I suppose. But Miller followed the law as its written, and made full disclosure.
But then the ad descends into fiction: “He lives the life, you pay the tab,” the ad says. “Tell Ross Miller to stop living the high life at your expense.”
This, of course, is a lie: Miller did not use taxpayer dollars in any of the cases the foundation is criticizing him over. The assertion is totally false, and Miller’s campaign is asking Nevada media outlets not to air the ad as a result.
Or, as Miller said in a statement released in response to the ad:
As secretary of state, I’ve led the fight to clean up our elections, and keep anonymous special interest money out of Nevada campaigns. So it’s no surprise that a Washington-based special interest group is coming after me. While the U.S. Supreme Court may have given this group the right to spend money on elections, they have no right to hide their donors, or ignore our laws.
My disclosure forms are public for anyone to see. The real question is, why won’t this group also be transparent, and disclose the funders who paid for this ad? Nevadans have the right to know who is trying to buy their vote and what they hope to gain.
I call on the secret donors behind these attacks to come out of the shadows, disclose their donations, and debate the issues in the light of day. Until then, I will continue to review every legal option to compel this front-group to reveal its special interest donors.
And that’s not just talk. Miller has sued groups such as Americans for Prosperity and Citizen Outreach after those groups have spent money on ads and fliers without providing what Miller says is the legally required disclosure. He’s had only mixed success in the courts, however.
The bottom line: The State Government Leadership Foundation appears quite willing to exaggerate or even flatly lie about Miller, to pursue its political goal of electing more Republicans in down-ballot races so as to have a larger pool of candidates to draw from when it comes to national office. They shouldn’t be trusted, however.