Hours after U.S. Sen. John McCain released a new ad attacking his Democratic rival, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, for being weak on border security, her campaign is firing back with a damning charge of its own: McCain is so desperate to save his political career that he's willing to lie about Kirkpatrick's voting record.
"This ad is based upon things that have already been found to be inaccurate by an independent fact checker last election cycle," Kirkpatrick's communications director, D.B. Mitchell, tells New Times.
"They're not being truthful and are being purposefully deceitful. It's simply an ad that just doesn't stand up to scrutiny at all."
The ad, which was released late last night and will begin to air in the Phoenix market today, charges that Kirkpatrick "voted to weaken Arizona's borders with votes against penalties for human traffickers and against using the National Guard in border-security emergencies" and features two border agents praising McCain.
Problem is, says Mitchell, both of those assertions are untrue and have been debunked.
The first claim, that Kirkpatrick threatened border security by voting against penalties for human traffickers, stems from a mailer the Arizona Republican Party sent out in 2014: Kirkpatrick "opposes the National Guard at the border, voted against additional funds for border enforcement, voted against multiple efforts to crack down on human smugglers and drug traffickers, and supports the Obama administration’s failed strategy on the border," it said.
Fact checkers at the Arizona Daily Sun, however, determined that "the mailer is mostly incorrect. Kirkpatrick did vote against the specific Republican bills the ad cites, but she supports a more comprehensive and bipartisan U.S. Senate bill and other initiatives to provide more funds, troops, weapons, technology, and infrastructure dedicated to border enforcement."
The second claim — that Kirkpatrick voted against deploying the National Guard in border-security emergencies — Mitchell says is totally misleading.
The bill in question, which would have appropriated $10 million in state money to send National Guard members to the border, dates back 10 years, to when Kirkpatrick was a state legislator, Mitchell explains.
"She voted against those because they were paid for by state money with no promise to be reimbursed by the federal government," says Mitchell. "Ann believes border security is the federal government's purview, and so the federal government should be funding it."
The issue became moot when then-Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed the bills. But, Mitchell says, "Fast-forward to when [Kirkpatrick] is in Congress: She's worked to increase funding to protect the border, to increase number of border-patrol agents, and to send the National Guard, while at the same time supporting comprehensive immigration reform."
What's more, Mitchell says, McCain has the audacity to take credit for a 2010 law beefing up border security that Kirkpatrick co-signed in its House version.
Border security has been a contentious issue in this campaign, with Kirkpatrick going after McCain's notorious 2010 comment to "complete the dang fence" in previous ads, and McCain countering that he's the one being endorsed by the National Border Patrol Council, which represents more than 16,000 border-patrol agents.
In a statement accompanying the new ad, McCain spokeswoman Lorna Romero says that "Kirkpatrick claims she is a moderate voice but in reality she sides with the liberal establishment on important Arizona issues including border security. ... The truth is, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick takes her marching orders from Democrat party leaders, proving she is too liberal for Arizona."
Mitchell says this latest ad proves that "instead of fighting for real solutions to keep families together and secure our border, McCain’s once again talking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue."
Kirkpatrick's campaign is also making note of the fact that McCain released the new ad on the same day his campaign was dealt a symbolic blow with news that he failed to out-fundraise Kirkpatrick during the most recent quarter. (Both campaigns have reported bringing in about $1.8 million.)
McCain is releasing misleading attack ads, Mitchell says, because the senator "knows his job is in serious jeopardy."
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"And yeah, they're going to play it, they're going to put it on TV, but you've got to look at the actual facts," he adds. "Her record is so strong on [border security] that they had to go back 10 years to find something to cite about her — and even then it's been mostly discredited. I think that says it all. For them to question this — it's pretty stunning."
Watch John McCain's new attack ad: