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Local politics


Senate race to get uglier in ads

Outside groups wage war with Donnelly, Mourdock

– Indiana’s U.S. Senate race is attracting more big spenders and more negative advertising.

Club for Growth Action announced Tuesday it will “invest” $500,000 in TV ads critical of Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly.

The same day, the news organization Politico reported that three groups – Majority PAC, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Center Forward – have pooled $1 million to run ads urging voters to reject GOP candidate Richard Mourdock.

Heading into October, outside interests had spent $10.3 million trying to elect or defeat Senate candidates in Indiana, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. The total includes money spent on the Republican primary-election battle in which state Treasurer Mourdock defeated six-term Sen. Richard Lugar.

The center’s tally shows that only four Senate races have lured more money from independent or outside sources: those in Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Ohio.

IPFW political scientist Michael Wolf said that because outside groups are prohibited by law from coordinating campaign efforts with candidates they support, the groups tend to attack those candidates’ rivals.

They “soften up the opposition,” Wolf said. “That’s the way they’ve been trained over time. To them, they’re hammers, and everything looks like a nail. … It works, and they know it works.”

Research on negative advertisements shows that “people remember them longer, and they register more quickly. They are more vivid in people’s memories.”

Groups that oppose Rep. Donnelly, D-2nd, have included Crossroads GPS, which has spent $966,000 against him; Club for Growth Action, $792,000; and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, $713,000.

“Club for Growth is almost obligated after they were so aggressive in the primary,” Wolf said. “It would be a real failure in their eyes, probably, to knock off Lugar and lose the seat.”

Groups opposing Mourdock have included the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, $980,000; Majority PAC, $502,000; and Center Forward, $500,000.

All totals are rounded to the nearest $1,000. They are available at the Center for Responsive Politics’ website,

In its new TV ad, Club for Growth Action claims that electing Donnelly “would mean a U.S. Senate controlled by liberals, more taxes and debt from Washington and less jobs for Indiana.”

In response, Donnelly campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Shappell said in a prepared statement that Donnelly “works nonstop with both parties to create jobs, lower the debt, and balance the budget.”

In the Majority PAC/AFSCME/Center Forward ad, a narrator says, “Mourdock tried to stop the Chrysler rescue that saved 100,000 Indiana jobs” with a lawsuit that cost more than $2 million.

Mourdock issued a statement Tuesday saying he “was bound by my oath and by principle to stand up for retired teachers and police officers, and for Hoosier taxpayers.”

Two state pension funds and a transportation fund invested $42.5 million in Chrysler bonds in 2008. Mourdock argued in a 2009 lawsuit that terms of the automaker’s bankruptcy and sale to Fiat favored unsecured creditors over secured creditors, including the Indiana funds.

Mourdock said he negotiated a $2 million cap on legal fees and saved the state $1 million in potential expenses.