Sethi camp warns of legal action for airing attack ads it calls ‘knowingly dishonest’

Republican Senate candidate Manny Sethi’s camp is calling a new attack ad by a super PAC  ‘knowingly dishonest’ and his lawyers are warning TV stations not to air the spot.

Standing with Conservatives is running an ad attacking Sethi for a $50 donation he made through the ActBlue online donation processing site in 2008. The ad calls ActBlue a PAC that later supported Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid.

The Tennessean’s Natalie Allison has a copy of the ad here:

Sethi’s attorneys say the donation was made by the candidate’s wife to a family friend. They argue ActBlue is being mischaracterized as a PAC.

Standing with Conservatives has spent $512,500 on independent expenditures opposing Sethi so far. The PAC was formed on July 3 and there is no public information available about who is behind it.

The full letter from the Sethi campaign follows:

To whom it may concern:

We are writing regarding an urgent matter. Standing with Conservatives PAC, a group supporting Ambassador Bill Hagerty, is running a false, misleading advertisement on your station attacking Dr. Manny Sethi, who is also running for U.S. Senate. We ask you to cease and desist broadcasting the ad immediately.

In 2008, Dr. Manny Sethi’s wife made a small donation of fifty dollars to a family friend running for office. Now this PAC and Bill Hagerty’s campaign are attacking Dr. Sethi’s wife over this donation. As we outline below, their effort is knowingly dishonest and deeply cynical.

Specifically, the ad states Dr. Sethi “donated to a Democrat PAC that supports progressives like Bernie Sanders” It goes on to say the group “advocates” for a number of liberal causes.

This claim is patently false: Act Blue, the PAC in question, is a credit card processor. Many candidates and organizations use it as a means of processing online donations. ActBlue collects, processes, and distributes money from donors to candidates. That is all. ActBlue does not make independent expenditures. ActBlue does not run commercials. ActBlue does not even make strategic contributions to candidates. In most Democratic primaries, all of the candidates use ActBlue to process donations. Simply put: ActBlue does NOT advocate. They are a conduit to candidates and nothing else. To say otherwise, as this ad does, is a lie. 

To make matters worse, the makers of this ad clearly know their attack on Dr. Sethi is false. As Inside Elections said, ” … The makers of this ad get it, because at the bottom it clearly says “Donation to ActBlue; earmark to Perriello for Congress. So it comes across more as bad-faith than as an innocent misunderstanding.”

Here are the facts: Dr. Sethi’s wife donated $50.00 to a friend from school running for office. To make the donation, she was required to use this credit card processor. There was no other way to give money online without going through this conduit.

No donation was made to ActBlue — contrary to what is stated in this false ad. The donation was made to a candidate, via ActBlue. The disclaimer in the false ad acknowledges as much, meaning the makers of this ad are knowingly lying. This isn’t a matter of sloppiness. It’s dishonesty, plain and simple, and the PAC all but-says-as much in its disclaimer.

This ad, paid for by Standing with Conservatives PAC, is defamatory and false. We ask that you immediately cease and desist the broadcast of this advertisement. The Dr. Manny Sethi campaign is prepared to
take immediate legal action if this false ad is not taken off the air now.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Billy Stokes
Attorney at Law

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