With independent Angus King running a solid first in the polls, Republican Charlie Summers unleashed a minute-long Web ad Monday criticizing the former Maine governor for liking to “say one thing and do another,” from campaign ads to campaign finance.

The ad spans a long period of time and exaggerates some claims but sticks relatively close to facts about King’s stances over time and his race so far.

Claim: “(In 1994) Angus launched negative personal attack ads and even compared the older Joe Brennan to a mummy. … And now he’s complaining about negative ads after his own negative personal attack ads helped put him in the governor’s mansion.”

Negativity is in the eye of the beholder, but the reference to this King ad against Joseph Brennan, the former Democratic Maine governor King defeated in 1994, is accurate.

It comes from Summers’ first Web ad of the general election campaign season, and it harkens back to a 1994 ad from the first gubernatorial campaign for King, the early favorite to win Maine’s soon-to-be-open Senate seat.

Ads in the 1994 campaign cycle drew a lot of attention. One, from the King campaign, alternates images of technological advances like jet planes, saying, “This is change,” with dated images including mummies and switchboard operators, saying, “This isn’t.”

It culminates in a color picture of King, dubbed as change, and a black-and-white picture of Brennan, who wasn’t, according to the ad.

“Nominally, this isn’t an attack ad,” said Jim Melcher, an associate professor of political science at the University of Maine at Farmington. “It’s a contrast ad,” though many observers may not see a difference, he said.

Summers’ ad later draws attention to the King campaign’s recent decrying of ads against him by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, hitting King for “mismanagement” and high rates of spending as governor. King’s campaign held a news conference after that ad’s release last month, featuring supporters from Maine’s business community.

After that, King wrote in an email to supporters that the chamber was “taking aim at my character.”

Verdict: It’s hard to factually assess the negativity of ads, so we won’t. But Summers’ campaign assessed the substance of the 1994 ad and correctly.

We rate this statement true.

Claim: “He slammed super PACs, but Angus was the first candidate in the race to get support from super PACs.”

It’s not “super PACs,” but “super PAC” so far.

In the Senate race, King drew the first contribution from a super PAC, a type of political action committee that can spend and raise unlimited amounts of money and use it to make independent purchases supporting or opposing candidates, though that money can’t go to candidates or parties themselves.

A super PAC called icPurple, founded by billionaire Ted Waitt, spent more than $30,000 in May and June in support of King, according to the Sunlight Foundation. Nearly $24,000 went toward production costs for an online video. The rest went to Internet ads and communication. It’s the only super PAC reported to be involved in the Maine race so far.

In June, King held a news conference saying he would dissuade super PAC involvement in his campaign if his opponents did as well, saying the groups’ “money is destroying our politics.”

But he didn’t shy away from mentioning icPurple’s support of him, saying in a letter to Democrat Cynthia Dill that “one of these groups has already sprung up and created an ad on my behalf in this election.”

Summers called the idea a gimmick, and Dill sent King a letter saying limiting super PAC contributions wouldn’t go far enough. She suggested “adopting low contribution limits and eliminat(ing) unlimited personal funds,” a release from her campaign said.

Verdict: So far, just one super PAC is involved, so the Summers campaign shouldn’t make it plural. They’re right that King has been the only reported beneficiary so far.

We rate this statement mostly true.

Claim: “When he ran for governor, he criticized opponents for cozying up to special interests and taking PAC money. But now he goes to Washington to hold fundraisers with super-lobbyists from the oil and tobacco industries.”

There’s almost an 18-year gap between two claims here. It’s sloppy but mostly right.

The larger fundraiser, on July 18, was held by lobbyists Tony and Heather Podesta for King. Both of their firms work for oil interests. One of the firms has worked for tobacco companies but doesn’t now. The Portland Press Herald has reported that attendees to that fundraiser were asked to donate $500, $1,000 or $2,500.

That’s the only Washington, D.C., fundraiser that’s been publicized. King’s campaign spokeswoman, Crystal Canney, said that the morning after, there was a small private breakfast at the home of Nancy Jacobson, the founder of No Labels, a national nonpartisan group. It wasn’t billed as a fundraiser, but people contributed there, Canney said.

The Podestas run different firms, each of which has lobbied for oil and gas giants as recently this year, with BP, Sunoco, Marathon Oil and Oxbow Corp. reported as clients of the two in 2012, according to Open Secrets, an online clearinghouse for political finance data.

The Podesta Group, Tony Podesta’s firm, last lobbied for clients in the tobacco industry in 2009, and neither Tony nor Heather Podesta currently does, Open Secrets said.

Lance Dutson, Summers’ campaign manager, said the reference to the tobacco industry was made because of a $6,000 campaign contribution by Andrew Tisch, co-chairman of Loews Corp., which used to own Lorillard Tobacco Co., the maker of Newport and other cigarette brands. In 1994, while he was chief executive of a cigarette company, he said at a congressional hearing that he didn’t believe cigarettes caused cancer.

Dutson said he didn’t know whether Tisch attended any King fundraiser. Canney said Tisch wasn’t at any fundraiser and simply contributed.

In September 1994, The Portland Press Herald reported that King was not accepting political action committee money but was accepting corporate contributions. In federal races, direct corporate contributions are banned.

In a Press Herald story in October 1994, King described the difference he saw between the two. King said PACs are “organization(s) set up to influence government through money.” He said corporations are “set up to build ships or whisk brooms. I think of a corporation as a big person.”

In September 1994, King hit his main opponents, Brennan and Republican Susan Collins, for accepting contributions from PACs.

“We are particularly pleased that none of our contributions came from PACs but instead from people who are tired of special interests’ control of the process,” King said that month to the Press Herald after a release of finance data. “I am sorry that some of my opponents have not joined me in taking this first step toward giving our government back to the people.”

Verdict: The Summers campaign has documentation for the facts but put the Tisch contribution into a different context than it was made in. For that, we’ll slightly downgrade the claim. All else is true.

We rate this claim mostly true.

The ad makes many comparisons between 1994 and the present day, two very different political worlds, especially in terms of campaign finance. Some assertions are sloppy, like the reference to “super PACs” and Washington fundraisers with contributors from different industries.

Some of it is subjective, such as the assessment of negativity in the 1994 ad, which could be contested by many. We’ll stick to the points of fact, which are mostly accurate but for some exaggeration.

Staff Writer Michael Shepherd can be contacted at 621-5632 or at:

[email protected]

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