LAS VEGAS -- Super political action committee American Crossroads, which supports Republican federal candidates, is airing an advertisement on KLAS-TV Channel 8 that takes Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley to task for a House ethics investigation launched against her in March.
Berkley, who is running against Republican Sen. Dean Heller for his seat in the November general election, was the subject of a New York Times story in September that reportedly sparked the investigation. The newspaper reported that Berkley "pushed legislation or twisted the arms of federal regulators" to benefit the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner, who operates dialysis centers in Nevada.
The ad, using quotes from the Times, Las Vegas Sun and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, shows images of Berkley on TV, including through shattered screens. News personalities speaking about Berkley also are shown.
The ad begins with a television anchor, who says: "The House Ethics Committee is looking into allegations against Congresswoman Shelley Berkley..." A narrator continues: "Charged with using her office to enrich her family. Berkley twisted arms to get federal dollars for her husband's business, a blatant conflict of interest. Conduct called dishonorable. Now Berkley is under investigation and she won't answer questions." Sun columnist Jon Ralston is then shown on TV stating: "Stonewalling the New York Times, refusing to talk about this..." Narrator: "Shelley Berkley makes the system work, for herself."
American Crossroads, whose advisers include Karl Rove, former deputy chief of staff and senior adviser to President George W. Bush, is one of many so-called super political action committees that can accept unlimited contributions from donors. The main stipulation is that these independent expenditure committees cannot spend the money in coordination with a candidate's own campaign or a political party.
The U.S. Supreme Court allowed this in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, arguing that such donations are protected forms of free speech under the First Amendment. Critics charge that such donations drown out the voices of most voters, and also allow for personal attacks against candidates without the attacks being traced directly back to the opposing candidate favored by the super PAC.
When the Times first broke the story, Berkley declined to be interviewed for the article. But in a statement to the newspaper, she said she supported a broad range of health care causes and never acted specifically to help her husband's practice.
"I won't stop fighting to give Nevadans access to affordable health care just because my husband is a doctor, just like I won't stop standing up for veterans because my father served in World War II," she told the Times..
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