The media firm that produced the controversial NARAL television ad is also responsible for producing all advertisements for Tim Kaine, the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate. The NARAL fiasco could embarrass the Kaine campaign’s attempt to portray its candidate as mainstream and “personally” pro-life.
The Kaine campaign’s sole media consulting firm and advertising shop, Struble Eichenbaum Communications, produced the now halted advertisement that falsely accused Judge John G. Roberts Jr. of “supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber.” In fact, in Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, then-Deputy Solicitor General Roberts signed an amicus brief that denounced abortion-clinic blockaders as trespassers. The brief went on to argue that the 1871 Klu Klux Klan Act could not apply to abortion clinic protests.
Under pressure from politicians across the political spectrum and Factcheck.org, the non-partisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, NARAL pulled the ads late last Thursday.
Even most steadfast pro-abortion figures condemned the ad. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) had written NARAL, calling the ad “blatantly untrue.” The Democratic National Committee distanced itself from the ad. Leading Congressional Democrats denied seeing the NARAL ad. Lanny Davis, one of President Clinton’s foremost media defenders who normally doesn’t shy from controversy, denounced the ad as “inaccurate, filled with innuendo and shameless,” the New York Times reported.
Asked Friday if the Kaine campaign would similarly condemn the ad, spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said she would later contact TAS with a reaction. She has yet to do so. Other calls to the Kaine campaign were not returned.
Kaine for Governor has paid Struble Eichenbaum Communications, of Washington, D.C., $124,103 through June 30. Struble Eichenbaum partner David Eichenbaum is also paid as a media consultant to the Kaine campaign, earning $48,552 this spring. Besides payroll and taxes, Struble Eichenbaum and David Eichenbaum were the Kaine campaign’s fourth and fourteenth largest expenditures during the filing period. Struble Eichenbaum touts its work for Kaine for Governor by prominently featuring on its website a photo of Tim Kaine at work with who appears to be a Struble Eichenbaum employee.
Since the Kaine campaign has paid Struble Eichenbaum and David Eichenbaum for consulting, it will have difficulty dismissing the firm as a neutral ad shop merely forwarding its client’s messages. Struble Eichenbaum is a proudly Democratic firm. In its consulting work, it has likely helped craft media strategy for Kaine in addition to producing advertisements.
Kaine, the former mayor of Richmond, portrays himself in the campaign as “personally” pro-life, sometimes with Struble Eichenbaum’s help. Despite his pro-abortion history, Kaine called himself “pro-life” in the July 19 gubernatorial debate against Republican Jerry Kilgore. A May radio advertisement produced by Struble Eichenbaum called “Weak” featured Kaine saying, “My Christian faith teaches life is sacred. I personally oppose abortion and the death penalty.”
The Kaine campaign’s connections to the NARAL media firm didn’t surprise the Kilgore camp Friday. Spokesman J. Tucker Martin told TAS, “It makes sense that [Kaine’s] media firm would be every bit as liberal as he is. Birds of a feather.”
Kate Obenshain Griffin, chairman of the Virginia Republican Party, declined to call for Kaine’s campaign to denounce the ad or Struble Eichenbaum. But she did tell TAS, “It’s no surprise that he’d contract with the ad firm responsible for the reprehensible NARAL ad. Apparently that’s a strategy Tim Kaine supports.”
It remains to be seen if the Struble-NARAL connection creates larger problems for Kaine. In the small world of political advertising production, many candidates share consultants and guilt by association is nearly unavoidable.
Rarely, though, do political ads create such a furor that they’re pulled within a week of their release, as in the case of the NARAL ad. If Struble Eichenbaum creates such false ads for NARAL, voters might question the sincerity and accuracy of its spots for Kaine — and thus Kaine’s own credibility.
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