Twisted timelines and possible collusion on PAC ad shakes Obama campaign
The centerpiece of a $20 million operation by a super PAC backing President Barack
Obama is being criticized for inconsistent timelines behind a new ad featuring
steelworker Joe Soptic that may also have broken campaign finance laws.
The PAC commercial, set to blanket swing state television sets, showcases the story
of Soptic, a 62-year-old Missouri man, and suggests that Republican presidential
hopeful Mitt Romney is responsible for his wife’s death.
Such ads by PACS are called independent political expenditures, and it’s a violation
of federal election laws for a campaign to coordinate with the production or
placement of such commercials.
However, a similar ad featuring Soptic wearing the same shirt was produced by
the Obama campaign in May, along with a conference call in which Soptic read a
transcript retelling his wife’s tragic story.
Romney blasted the PAC ad Thursday and accused the Obama campaign of focusing
exclusively on personal attacks.
“In the past when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why,
campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney told former Education Secretary Bill Bennett on
his radio show. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know,
the various fact-checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they
say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”
The Priorities USA ad was produced by the PAC’s founder, Bill Burton, who also
served as Obama’s White House deputy secretary and worked on Obama’s first
“The point of this ad is that — you know, it’s to tell the story of one guy, Joe Soptic,
and the impact on his life that happened for years, and to this day, as a result of
decisions that Mitt Romney made,” Burton told CNN.
After Politico broke the story Wednesday on the campaign and PAC’s use of the
same individual relating the same story, top Obama officials denied any knowledge
of the duplication.
“We have nothing – no involvement with any ads that are done by Priorities USA,”
CNN quoted campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki as stating on Wednesday. “We don’t
have any knowledge of the story of the family. As you know, campaign finance rules
in that regard are in place for a reason.”
Interestingly, Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, participated
in the campaign’s May conference call featuring Soptic, identified herself on the
recording, and thanked Soptic for sharing his experiences.
In the campaign call and the PAC ad, Soptic blames Romney for closing the steel
plant and costing the family their health insurance. Years later, Soptic’s wife died of
“I had to put her in a county hospital because she didn’t have health care, and when
the cancer took her away, all I got was an enormous bill,” Soptic says. “That put a
lot of stress on me: I thought I’d be paying it off until I died myself. That probably
wouldn’t have happened if Bain kept its promise and I was allowed to keep our
Bain owned GST Steel of Kansas for eight years before it shut down in 2001,
however Romney left the company in 1999.
In the commercial, Soptic says his family lost their health care insurance as a result
of the closure and “a short time after that, my wife became ill.”
Soptic’s wife was not diagnosed until 2006 with the late-stage cancer and died three
Soptic says he found work six months after the plant shut down as a school
custodian making $25,000 a year, but did not add his wife to the insurance plan
because of the monthly costs.
His wife remained on insurance provided by her employer until 2003, when she left
her job due to an unrelated injury.
“Bill Burton needs to go back to ethics school,” Lanny Davis, a presidential advisor
in the Clinton administration told WMAL radio in Washington. “He knows perfectly
well that the ad is misleading and disgusting and he needs to apologize for it.”
“President Obama owes it to the American people to repudiate this ad,” Davis said.
John Sununu, chief of staff to former President George H.W. Bush, told Fox News the
Obama campaign used Soptic to “craft a despicable ad full of lies.”
“Even the liberal media is telling us how despicable this campaign is,” Sununu
said. “What matters in the end, is people know Obama will lie, his campaign will lie,
and his PAC will lie.”