King continues criticism of outside attack ads

Independent former Gov. Angus King continued his criticism of negative ads from outside groups on Thursday with a new spot of his own responding to the latest group to start an anti-King advertising campaign. At a news conference at Geaghan’s Pub in Bangor, King unveiled a new ad designed to counter a new ad campaign funded by Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies.

The Crossroads GPS ad calls King “King Angus” and hits the former governor on some of the same points as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has in its three separate anti-King ads. Crossroads GPS is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization co-founded by former George W. Bush strategic Karl Rove.

King’s response ad defends the independent’s record as governor and ends with the line: “I’m Angus King. I balanced the budget, and I approve this message,” a play on the “stand by your ad” provision required by federal law.

“I don’t think Karl Rove knows how to make a positive ad,” King said at Thursday’s event, where his campaign announced endorsements from three former Bangor mayors, a former Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce chairman, the transportation commissioner for Democratic former Gov. John Baldacci and others. “It’s poisoning our politics.”

The Bangor-area endorsements came from Bangor Savings Bank executive vice president Yellow Light Breen, who served in the King administration as a policy adviser in his office and with the Maine Department of Education; former Bangor mayors John Rohman, Joe Baldacci and Michael Crowley; former legislator Kassie Zeigler; former Transportation Commissioner David Cole; and Mark Woodward, former Bangor Daily News editor and former Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce chairman.

Crossroads GPS has spent $323,000 so far on the anti-King spot, according to expenditure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, joining outside groups that have spent more than $5 million so far on Maine’s Senate race.

While nearly all of the outside spending through the summer and much of September targeted King, outside groups airing ads designed to boost King and oppose his Republican rival, Charlie Summers, have started to make up the deficit.

The League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club recently turned their backing for King into an ad spot that champions King’s environmental record and paints Summers as an ally of conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

In addition, the nonprofit group Americans Elect is in the midst of spending $1.75 million to boost King, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee entered the Maine Senate fray at the end of September. While the DSCC hasn’t endorsed the Democratic nominee, state Sen. Cynthia Dill, the group has been airing anti-Summers ads.

Also this week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was spending at least $10 million to create a super PAC that supports King and other moderate candidates.