Text messages, Google ads target Virginia Democrats

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Not all independent expenditures come in the form of a slick television ad. Two small independent groups are using relatively inexpensive cell phone text messages and a Google ad to attack Virginia Democratic incumbents.

Earlier this week, one of our colleagues received a text message from the Americans in Contact PAC saying: “Congressman Gerry Connolly passed Obamacare and voted to increase your taxes. Tell him your thoughts.” Connolly, a freshman Democrat from the northern Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C., is running for re-election in the 11th district.

Another independent group, Keep America Safe, bought Google banner ads attacking Jim Moran, a tenth-term Democrat who represents the 8th district, also in northern Virginia. The banner, appearing on websites that run Google ads, asks “How does Jim Moran rate on national security? Find out now.” Clicks lead to a webpage that gives the incumbent an “F” on national security, noting that he “supports holding terrorist trials in Alexandria” and “voted to close Guantanamo.”

Keep America Safe is a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization whose board members include Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of the former vice president, and conservative commentator William Kristol. Oddly, the ad appeared Friday morning at the top of one of the nation’s most prominent Democratic blogs — DailyKos.

A spokesman for Rep. Moran, Austin Durrer, told You Report: Election 2010 that the Keep America Safe “F” rating is “a badge of honor” in the eyes of the campaign because the Guantanamo camp has held hundreds prisoner without due process. “The concern with political attack ads produced by groups such as these is that the public has no idea who funds them and therefore who is ultimately responsible for their content,” he added.

The cell phone text message was purchased by Americans in Contact PAC, a group of social and fiscal conservatives, which says it is building a database of the political opinions of 120 million homes as it attempts to have a grassroots impact on all levels of government. As a political action committee, it discloses large contributors and is subject to campaign contribution limits.

Gabriel Joseph III, treasurer of Americans in Contact PAC, told You Report: Election 2010 that his company, ccAdvertising, has harvested millions of mobile phone contacts from voter files and aims to be “the directory listing for mobile phones in America, period.”

The Connolly for Congress campaign and Keep America Safe did not respond to a request for comment.