A new ad by Rove’s super PAC, Crossroads GPS, is trying to frame the five-term Long Island congressman as a paragon of corruption, highlighting a recent episode in which Bishop’s staff solicited a campaign contribution from a constituent who had asked for the congressman’s help in securing a fireworks permit.
The constituent, Eric Semler, wanted to throw a pyrotechnic bar mitzvah bash for his son, and Bishop agreed to step in on his behalf. But before the permits came through, Bishop’s staff held out a palm to Semler, who ultimately donated $5,000 to the congressman, according to a report by Politico.
As Rove’s ad put it, “When a constituent reached out for help, Bishop’s campaign reached out in turn ...” (dramatic pause) “... for cash.” The ad concludes that Bishop embodies “everything wrong with Washington.”
That's right. Karl Rove is standing up for the values that American politics are so sorely lacking -- honesty, fairness, financial probity. The Bishop ad represents just one of several recent attempts by Crossroads GPS to paint Democratic candidates with the brush of corruption, an effort that strikes some observers as ironic.
“Karl Rove is the king of corruption and of the influence of money in politics,” said Matt Canter, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “It's certainly the height of hypocrisy, but I think they're desperate.”
As top adviser to former President George W. Bush, Rove helped big-business lobbyists gain influence in Washington. More recently, his organization American Crossroads and its super PAC spinoff, Crossroads GPS, have steered hundreds of millions of dollars to Republican pro-business candidates. “Irony doesn’t begin to touch the notion that a super PAC that doesn’t disclose its donors can throw mud at anyone about corruption,” said Robert Peirce, a spokesman for Bishop’s campaign. “That said, I understand Karl Rove is in a tough spot."
Indeed, despite the millions that Rove’s group has shelled out, polls across the country show Democratic candidates gaining ground on Republican rivals, and there’s little evidence these new super PAC ads have done much to slow the trend. Rove and his cohorts have been effective at “squeezing this cash out of billionaires,” said Canter. “But when it comes to spending, it it may have been smarter to just flush it down the toilet.”
Along with Bishop, the targets of the group’s ethics attacks include John Tester, the Montana Democratic senator, and Shelley Berkley, a Democratic congresswoman running for Senate in Nevada. One ad calls Tester a “top recipient of campaign cash, from big banks and credit card companies.” In response, Tester’s campaign noted that Tester signed onto a bill that would ban former legislators from becoming lobbyists after leaving Congress, and cited a Los Angeles Times article that pointedly described Crossroads' backers as “a small cadre of secret donors.”
Asked to respond to the charges of ineffectiveness and hypocrisy, Nate Hodson, a spokesman for Crossroads GPS, said simply, “These ads show how these liberal Democrats have used their elected positions to help themselves instead of create jobs.”