In the wake of several news reports last week about inaccuracies in Susan Bysiewicz’s latest campaign ad attacking U.S. Senate rival Chris Murphy, the Murphy campaign, through its attorneys, has demanded state television stations stop airing the spot.
Murphy and his staff talked about the request with reporters who attended the latest debate between the U.S. Representative and ex-Secretary of the State Bysiewicz. The two are competing in August’s Democratic primary for the nomination to seek the seat held by retiring U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
Bysiewicz has for months been accusing Murphy of being too cozy with Wall Street and in an advertisement released last week claimed the Congressman is the top Democratic recipient of hedge fund contributions.
But the Byisiewicz camp has admitted that is an error and they misrepresented data from 2008 that showed Murphy at the time was the fourth largest recipient. A related Bysiewicz campaign website supporting her arguments about Wall Street and Murphy also contained errors.
Murphy following Sunday’s debate in Bridgeport told reporters, “They (television stations) have a Federal Communications Commission obligation to pull an ad the campaign has said is fictional.”
“It’s made up,” Murphy said.
In an interview a few minutes earlier Bysiewicz told reporters her campaign has no intention of pulling down the ad, even though she admitted the detail in the advertisement about the hedge fund ranking was incorrect.
“Chris Murphy has taken $700,000 from Wall Street,” Bysiewicz said, adding: “The ad was incorrect – he’s #4 in terms of hedge funds, not #1.”
Bysiewicz later said, “I’ll take down the ad if Chris goes ahead and gives back his $700,000 to Wall Street.”
Asked if he might consider returning some of the money, Murphy countered, ”And what is she going to do with her financial services money?”
Neither Murphy nor Bysiewicz is interested in reducing their war chests considering the possible Republican competition.
The victor of the Democratic primary may face former professional wrestling executive Linda McMahon, one of two Republicans vying for the GOP Senate nomination. The second is ex-U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays.
McMahon spent $50 million of her wealth on a failed Senate bid in 2010 and so far has sunk around $9 million into her 2012 campaign.
UPDATE: The text of the letter to the state’s four major television stations, 3, 8, 30 and 61:
This law firm represents Friends of Chris Murphy. I am writing with regard to a recent television advertisement of Susan Bysiewicz, in which she falsely accuses Mr. Murphy of receiving “more hedge fund money than any other Democrat in Congress.” As Ms. Bysiewicz’s campaign publicly acknowledged, the ad is false and unsupported by the data cited. See July 19, 2012 Stamford Advocate; July 19, 2012 Hartford Courant; and July 19, 2012 CT Mirror. According to Ms. Bysiewicz’s campaign, the ad was due to a “research error”. July 19, 2012 Stamford Advocate. Indeed, opensecrets.org , the source Ms. Bysiewicz’s campaign relies upon, has never listed Mr. Murphy as the top recipient of hedge fund donations in any year since Mr. Murphy was elected to Congress. Regardless of whether the error was due to negligence or was intentional, the Bysiewicz campaign has admitted that the central factual claim in the ad is false, and for the sake of FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, this advertisement must not be aired now that it is known to contain false statements. As you are aware, the station has a duty under Federal Communication Commission regulations “to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.” Licensee Responsibility With Respect to the Broadcast of False, Misleading or Deceptive Advertising, 74 F.C.C.2d 623 (1961). Failure to prevent the airing of “false and misleading advertising” may be “probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility” that can be cause for the loss of a station’s license. Cosmopolitan Broad. Corp. v. FCC, 581 F.2d 917,927 (D.C. Cir. 1978). Because this advertisement is known to be false, misleading, and deceptive, we ask that you immediately discontinue airing this advertisement. If you have any questions regarding this letter, please contact me. Your cooperation in this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Michael C. Harrington