As liberal advocacy group MoveOn and the Democratic National Committee use Web ads to go to bat for Barack Obama, the Republicans are taking aim in several tight Senate races. Al Franken, "Saturday Night Live" star, turned pundit, turned candidate for Senate candidate, is bearing the brunt.
Since July, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been running display ads on conservative Web sites targeting Franken as an off-color humorist who's unfit to take the seat of his incumbent opponent from Minnesota, Republican Senator Norm Coleman.
"Rape Jokes...Unpaid Taxes...'Porn-O-Rama'...Senator Al Franken?" ask ads spotted by Nielsen Online on sites like National Review Online, Washington Times, Newsmax, and TownHall.com. "This Time He's Not Joking," the ads continue.
Search ads follow suit, inviting people conducting name-related searches for Franken to visit FranklyFranken.com, an NRSC site dedicated to attacking the former Air America Radio host. A section of the NRSC's FranklyFranken site refers to a fine Franken paid New York state after failing to pay workers compensation insurance. The site pictures Franken with an extended, Pinocchio-style nose, and asks users to sign a petition "If [they] think Al Franken is lying." Nonfiction fans may recall Franken's 2003 book, "Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."
The Franken campaign is also going negative. Norm Coleman-related Web searches turn up an ad connecting the officeholder to his fellow Republican Senator, Ted Stevens, currently embroiled in a federal corruption trial. "Norm Coleman took $30K from Stevens, $6K from corrupt Big Oil," reads the ad, which links to a Stevens-related landing page on Franken's campaign site.
Though the NRSC appears to be fixed on the battle in Minnesota, the committee isn't stopping there. Several Democratic Senate hopefuls are also on their hit list. Colorado's Mark Udall, Georgia's Jim Martin, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, Kentucky's Bruce Lunsford, Maine's Tom Allen and Jim Slattery of Kansas have all been under fire on Web sites paid for by the NRSC.
MoveOnTomAllen.org paints Allen as a liberal who's beholden to campaign funds from MoveOn. TrueLandrieuStory.com declares that "Mary Landrieu is a corrupt liberal." The sites ask visitors to donate to the NRSC and sign petitions -- those are aimed at collecting e-mail addresses for fundraising, volunteering, and get-out-the-vote efforts.
The committee also is putting search ad dollars behind sites targeting New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen, Alaska's Mark Begich, Mississippi's Ronnie Musgrove, Oregon's Jeff Merkley, and North Carolina's Kay Hagan.
The NRSC is getting some help with Senate races from advocacy groups, too. "Love Higher Taxes?" asks a search ad linking to the tongue-in-cheek AmericansForHigherTaxes.org. The site, paid for by conservative nonprofit Freedom's Watch, features a video sarcastically praising Oregon Senate hopeful Jeff Merkley for showing "the courage to raise taxes on Oregon."
The NRSC is also rallying against Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama. Display ads seen on right-leaning news sites in August, proclaim, "President Obama and a 60-seat Democrat Senate Majority? There will be no stopping him." Beside a photo of committee chairman Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the ad continues, "Help Me Stop Barack Obama! Donate!"
The NRSC did not respond to ClickZ's requests for comment.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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