PORTLAND – Angus King’s campaign called on Maine television stations Monday to stop airing a new political ad that attacks the independent Senate candidate’s involvement in the wind power industry.
The ad, purchased by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, features members of an anti-wind group that claims King made “millions” off the Record Hill wind power project in Roxbury.
The 22-turbine project was completed by Independence Wind. King and his business partner Rob Gardiner held a 10 percent stake in the Record Hill project until last year.
King claims that his net earnings from the Record Hill project were $212,000, not “millions.”
The commercial also says that King got a “sweetheart deal” from the federal government.
Kay Rand, King’s campaign manager, told reporters at the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Monday that television stations have a responsibility to pull the spot to prevent the spread of “deceptive advertising.”
Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a prepared statement that the group stands behind both of its ads.
“The simple fact is that the ad is accurate and King knows it, and these legal threats are nothing but a desperate PR distraction from that fact,” Walsh said.
The campaign is also contesting another ad attacking King’s involvement in the wind power industry, purchased by the same Republican group.
A recent analysis by the Portland Press Herald noted that the first ad contained several of the most “spurious claims” of the campaign, including that King’s company received a $120 million government-backed loan for the Record Hill project because of his “political connections,” and that he profited from the loan.
King sold his stake in Record Hill on Jan. 14, 2011; the project received the loan seven months later.
The first ad has been swapped out by the new one featuring wind-power opponents. The second ad began airing during the weekend.
Rand said the King campaign has contacted television stations that are airing the ad and they are reviewing the complaint. She said the campaign will take legal action if necessary.
It’s unclear whether the stations will acquiesce. Station managers at WCSH, WGME and WMTW did not respond to calls for comment Monday.
In the past, station managers have pulled ads that were later found to be misleading. In 2006, stations yanked an ad by the Republican Governors Association that claimed Maine had a $733 million budget deficit, when in fact it was a disparity between state spending and projected revenue. The gap had been closed by lawmakers by the time the ad ran.
News reports over the past 10 years show several instances of political ads getting pulled for containing erroneous or misleading information. Decisions to pull ads are left to individual TV stations.
In 2003, Maine’s two NBC affiliates pulled two spots produced by an anti-casino group for containing false and misleading information, but other stations continued to run the ads.
The King campaign released an ad countering the Roxbury spot. It features Roxbury residents who support the Record Hill project and several shots of windmills turning under sunny skies.
“My taxes went down and I can hunt here,” says a man named “Rolly,” who sits atop Record Hill with the turbines in the background. “What more could I want?”
The ad contrasts sharply with the ad from the Republican group, which shows the turbines briefly and is dominated by gray overtones. The people in the commercial describe the project as an eyesore and King as a smooth-talking salesman.
Kathy Sutton, who appears in the pro-King ad, told reporters Monday that the wind power project is welcomed by most residents, and that King went out of his way to advocate for residents during its development.
The Record Hill project was controversial with some residents in Roxbury, a town of about 400 people. However, supporters of the project note that Independence Wind paid the town $610,000 this year, dramatically reducing property taxes. According to a report in the Lewiston Sun Journal, residents pay $6.93 per $1,000 of property value. Last year’s rate was $16.86.
The King campaign appears to be considering a new tack in response to recent polls reporting gains by Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers.
A poll released last week by Public Policy Polling showed Summers within striking distance, with King at 43 percent, Summers at 35 percent and Dill at 14 percent.
A poll by the Maine People’s Resource Center had King at 43.8 percent, Summers at 28.2 percent and Dill at 14.9 percent.
Dill and Summers both declined to comment Monday about King’s complaint.
Watch Angus King’s rebuttle ad: