In a statement issued July 3, 2008, the Sierra Club accused GOP presidential candidate John McCain of turning hefty Big Oil donations into an attack ad campaign. The campaign’s television spot criticizes Democrat Barack Obama’s positions on energy security. “Barack Obama…just says no to lower gas taxes, no to nuclear, no to more production,” says the narrator.
The ads, launched July 6, cost the Republican National Committee (RNC) $3 million. The ad campaign falls under the committees “independent expenditure,” and Brad Todd, the GOP media consultant from On Message, Inc., controls the content. The independent expenditure clause allows the GOP to exceed the RNC’s $19 million campaign spending cap—while legally prohibiting them from working with the McCain campaign or the RNC. Todd calls it a response to Obama’s refusal to accept public funding.
Sources argue that McCain is scrambling to make up the difference between Obama’s $347 million raised (as of press time) and his own $143.8 million. According to The Trail, the Washington Post‘s election blog, McCain has appeared at 90 fundraisers since March 5. In the month preceding the release of the attack ads, McCain’s schedule included events in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, which brought in more than $4 million. According to opensecrets.com, McCain’s campaign has received just over $1 million from the oil and gas industries, with the Republican Party getting an additional $4 million and the RNC more than $1.5 million.
Cathy Duvall, the Sierra Club’s political director, says this is no coincidence. “The very same special interests John McCain claims to dislike are now funding millions in attack ads on his behalf,” she says in the press release.