The shadowy pro-business group, Americans for Job Security, got tough front-page treatment in the New York Times on Friday for funding a host of conservative causes behind the cloak of tax-exemption and donor anonymity.
Hinting that the organization is pushing the lines of campaign law while moving hordes of largely special interest money, the paper put a numerical figure on AJS's impact so far this cycle. "Already they [and other outside groups] have spent more than $100 million -- mostly for Republicans and more than twice as much as at this point four years ago."
Not all of that cash has been well spent. Hours before the Times went to print, news broke in Virginia that a local ABC television affiliate was pulling an ad run by AJS against Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) because its claims are false and misleading.
At issue is an often cited study by the Washington Post which assigns a "party voting" score that represents the percentage of votes on which a lawmaker agrees with the position taken by a majority of his or her party members.
AJS references the study when it claims that "Rick Boucher supports Nancy Pelosi 96 percent of the time" in its ad, which went on the air Sept. 9.
But after Boucher's complaint WSET-TV President Randy Smith reviewed the ad and found that the Washington Post study "does not appear to compare votes by Congressman Boucher with those by Ms. Pelosi nor does it equate Ms. Pelosi with the Democratic Party. Hence the ad appears to be misleading.
In the end, the $416,000 that AJS spent on the spot against Boucher is pocket change compared to the $9 million that the group is reportedly set to spend on television ads through October. Americans for Jobs Security, in short, can take the loss of funds it spent on producing the Boucher ad and the political hits that come with getting it pulled.
"Americans for Jobs Security and other groups like it might sound harmless but their agenda is dictated by their corporate and potentially foreign funded interests and their record of telling the truth has as many holes as Swiss cheese," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Southern Regional Press Secretary Jesse Ferguson.
But the group's activities, while propelling Republicans in key races (in addition to Sen. Blanche Lincoln in the Arkansas Democratic primary), have also engendered some negative press. In addition to the Times, the Roanoke Times recently editorialized against the group under the title: "A shadow descends on the 9th district."
[W]ho is AJS? Beats us. The group keeps its members' identities secret. The name is just a feel-good front. Members could be foreign corporations, wealthy industrialists or even environmentalists. All right, probably not environmentalists, given the group's love of coal.
At least AJS is open about its secrecy. The group's website reports, "Our members are businesses, business leaders and entrepreneurs from around the country. AJS does not disclose or discuss its membership further than this."
In other words, mind your own business.