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Daily Disclosure: Republicans run with out-of-context Obama quote

Artful editing makes for good attack ads

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 Updated:

Republicans and conservative super PACs have pounced on President Barack Obama’s July 13 comment at an event in Virginia: “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.”

Thursday’s ad from American Crossroads, the football-themed “Replay,” hammers home their talking point: that Obama believes small business owners didn’t build their businesses on their own.

The super PAC’s July 24 ad “Build” also uses the quote, as has the Mitt Romney campaign and other GOP candidates. The Republican National Committee’s video “The More Context You Get, the Worse It Sounds” also takes advantage of the admittedly artless quote.

But in fact, the more context you “get,” the more holes show up in the argument.

Obama’s speech on July 13 focused on government investments — in infrastructure, public schools and research. He talked about the investors, the educators and the inventors that underlie the American economy.

It becomes clear with context that Obama is not dismissing the effort of business owners: “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together,” Obama said seconds after the “you didn’t build that” comment.

But the ads show the quote as a stand-alone; no context is provided. The Romney campaign goes so far as to play the statement on a loop for 15 seconds in an online video.

FactCheck.org and The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker have both concluded that the quote is out of context and misleading, and the Obama campaign pushed back with “Tampered” on July 23 to criticize the ads for misrepresenting what he said.

Nonetheless, the quote survives. On Wednesday, the Romney campaign held events featuring local business owners in 24 states with the slogan, “We did build this.”

American Crossroads, responsible for the newest ad repeating the quote, is one of the best-funded super PACs in the country, finishing June with $31.5 million in cash on hand. Its top funders include businessman Harold Simmons and his company Contran Corp., Texas homebuilder Bob Perry, and former Univision owner Jerry Perenchio.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest — and nominally bipartisan — business association, launched a series of ads Wednesday night opposing Democratic candidates:

In other outside spending news:

  • Majority PAC, a pro-Senate Democrats super PAC, reported to the Federal Election Commission Wednesday a $230,000 media buy opposing John Brunner, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Missouri.
  • National Horizon, an Arizona-focused super PAC, reported spending $100,000 on Sunday for the fairy tale-themed attack ad “Prince Ben,” which opposes the re-election of Rep. Ben Quayle, D-Ariz.
  • Senate Conservatives Action, the new super PAC associated with what was formerly South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint’s leadership PAC, spent $511,000 on ads to support tea party favorite Ted Cruz in his U.S. Senate run in Texas. Cruz faces GOP establishment favorite Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a runoff next Tuesday.
  • SEIU COPE, the political action committee of the Service Employees International Union, reported spending nearly $49,000 on TV ads supporting the congressional run of Christie Vilsack, a Democrat and the former first lady of Iowa. The ad “More of That” was released July 23 and produced with the House Majority PAC, which contributed $30,000, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which contributed $35,000.
  • SEIU COPE also spent $136,000 on TV ads opposing Romney.
  • Three new super PACs registered with the FEC: Patriot Prosperity PAC in Washington, D.C., The Faux News Super PAC in Cortez, Colo., and Sovereignty Matters in Novoto, Calif.