Senior Political Reporter, The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON -- A new super PAC has formed to support allies of the Asian Pacific Islander community after GOP Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra aired a controversial ad that was widely criticized for furthering negative stereotypes of Asian Americans.
“In an age where virtually all Americans have moved forward on race relations, it seems Congressman Hoekstra has taken a giant step back. We are here to say we are not going to put up with it. We are here to tell him we are outraged and demand an official apology," said Jesse Tangkhpanya, the national political director for the American Values super PAC.
The controversial Hoekstra ad was aimed at Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the incumbent who Hoekstra is trying to unseat in 2012. It was broadcast in Michigan on Super Bowl Sunday and removed from circulation later that week, and showed a woman bicycling through a landscape of rice paddies dressed in khakis and a yellow shirt.
As she approached the camera, an Asian-American actress thanked "Michigan Senator Debbie Spend-it-Now" for supposedly spending too much money, in turn helping the Chinese economy.
"Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good," she said in broken and stereotypically accented English.
American Values' first effort, Tangkhpanya said, is aimed at raising enough money to put up an ad responding to Hoekstra.
"I fear that the way the business of politics is done today, that we are back to the days of Lee Atwater and the racially-insensitive tactics that gave us Willie Horton. This is clearly Hoekstra's Willie Horton moment," said Lewis Myers, executive director of American Values.
The American Values spot plays part of the "Debbie Spend-It-Now" ad and highlights Hoekstra's defense of it. "Congressman Pete Hoekstra, shame on you," says the narrator.
Tangkhpanya said the super PAC was originally supposed to launch next month, but they decided to move up the date in response to the Hoekstra controversy. Michigan won't be the only state American Values is involved in. The super PAC already has a commitment from a donor to contribute "at least six figures" for races in California, Tangkhpanya said. He declined to name the donor, although he said American Values will be disclosing all of its donors eventually.
The pledged funds are earmarked for two specific candidates in California, including Democrat Jay Chen, who is trying to unseat Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.). Tangkhpanya would not name the other candidate. Myers was recently a consultant for Chen, but he has since resigned.
"We plan on expanding the map to targeted Red to Blue races and races we deem competitive," he added. "We will specialize on API candidates and allies and set the record straight on those we feel are not on the community's side."
Lisa Chan, the Asian-American actress in the Hoekstra ad, recently apologized for her involvement.
"I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities," Chan wrote on her Facebook page. "As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions."
Stabenow, on the other hand, raised a significant amount of money as a result of backlash to the spot.
"We knew we were taking an aggressive approach on this," Hoekstra said earlier this month in response to the criticism. "But this is a time where the people in Michigan and across the country are fed up with the spending, and we wanted to capture that frustration that they had with Washington, D.C. This ad ... hits Debbie smack dab between the eyes on the issue where she is vulnerable with the voters of Michigan, and that is spending."
Hoekstra's campaign did not return a request for comment.