GOP donor’s station rejects Democratic ad in Minnesota

July 31, 2014

By Steve Benen

When political players own television stations, and those stations start turning down political advertising, controversy is probably inevitable.
House Majority PAC is calling foul on the Koch brothers in another congressional race this week. But the Democratic super PAC isn’t using the conservative businessmen in a TV ad this time – it’s alleging that the brothers’ allies are helping stifle HMP’s other advertising.
The Democratic group’s latest TV ad was taken off the air by two Minnesota TV stations that called the ad misleading because it spliced together parts of a quote from Republican businessman Stewart Mills saying it is “personally offensive” to criticize the wealthy for not paying higher taxes. Mills is challenging Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan.
You can see the proposed ad online here. It shows Mills saying reflecting on the 2012 campaign in a speech last summer: “Folks saying that the wealthy, the wealthy are not paying their fair share, the 2 percent, the 1 percent, whatever percent you want, is personally offensive.”
Not surprisingly, the folks behind the ad had to edit the remarks, and in the original, unedited video, the “personally offensive” line came in this context: “To be singled out as a deadbeat is personally offensive.” That doesn’t really change the meaning in any substantive way – it’s hardly as if the line was wrenched from context.
MSNBC’s Krystal Ball added, “I watched the video of Stewart Mills making his comments in its entirety online. The clip used in the campaign ad is definitely edited for time and cut together but wholly representative of the point that Mills was making.”
But the ad from House Majority PAC and AFSCME was nevertheless rejected, which very rarely happens. It’s not unreasonable to ask why.
In this case, the stations that turned down the ad are owned by Stanley Hubbard, a major Republican donor and attendee to the Koch brothers’ donor events. Making matters much worse, Hubbard donated the legal maximum to Stewart Mills – the person being criticized in the ad.
Now, as best as I can tell, there’s no evidence that Stanley Hubbard specifically ordered his stations not to air the ad criticizing the candidate he supports, but it’s fair to question the circumstances.
“When Hubbard told the Koch brothers, ‘You can count on me,’ it is now clear what he meant – he will pull the strings necessary to see ultraconservative out-of-touch candidates like Stewart Mills protected on the air,” House Majority PAC and AFSCME said in a joint statement.