-By Heidi Przybyla
May 1, 2012- While polls show the economy as the top concern of voters, a review of political attack ads suggests a different issue dominates: energy.
Americans for Prosperity, an organization backed by oil interests, last week began airing its third television commercial since November, a campaign worth $6.1 million, attacking Obama’s green energy policies.
The latest round brings the group’s total ad buys to $12.5 million this year, compared with a combined $5.7 million total spent on ads of all sorts by Obama and Priorities USA Action, a Washington-based super political action committee supporting him. Priorities on April 24 teamed with the League of Conservation Voters to begin a $1 million commercial run that accuses presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, of being a protector of the oil industry.
“Energy is the issue unless the entire economy starts to unwind,” said Stephen Brown, a lobbyist for oil refiner Tesoro Corp. (TSO) of San Antonio, Texas.
That’s not the conclusion of the White House, which includes energy policy in a broader discussion about the economy and job creation. The ability of oil interest groups, though, to attempt to carve out and elevate their issue is the latest example of how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has changed politics by allowing corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited sums to drive the debate.
‘Buy the Election’
“While the president fights every day to build an economy where everybody gets a fair shot and does their fair share, special interests across the country are mobilizing to buy the election for Governor Romney to try to promote their interests over the interests of the American people,” Ben LaBolt, Obama’s campaign spokesman, said in response to Americans for Prosperity’s latest ad buy.
In April, 16,991 negative ads aired in various parts of the country and 13,748 of them — or 81 percent — focused on energy, according to data provided by New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.
Republicans say the ads are timely and effective because high gasoline prices put Obama on defense at the onset of the general election. Democrats say they prove that Republicans are struggling to find an effective attack line amid an economy that is showing signs of recovery.