A Washington, D.C.-based SuperPAC is making last-minute changes to a TV spot criticizing Democratic congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth after she refuted claims in the ad.
Tyler Harber, a spokesman for Now or Never PAC, confirmed that changes are being made to a commercial set to run on Chicago cable and broadcast stations criticizing Duckworth's tenure as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs. He described those changes, however, as minor.
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Duckworth, of Hoffman Estates, is running in the 8th Congressional District against U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of McHenry, whom the SuperPAC supports.
"We made no substantive or topical changes to the ad," Harber said in an email. "The ad conveys the same message as before. We were not asked to take out any of the arguments we made in the ad. It is not unusual to make minor adjustments to ads. People who see the first version and the second version will notice virtually no difference whatsoever."
Harber suggested the "Duckworth people are trying to make this into something that it's not."
The controversy stems from a portion of the ad that claims an "audit found Duckworth guilty of misusing or misreporting $4 million in taxpayer money."
Duckworth's campaign, in a release, described the claims in the commercial as "false" and "lying about Tammy Duckworth."
The Daily Herald has previously reported on that audit, which was being circulated by a local Tea Party group over the summer.
The evaluation covered June 2006 through June 2008. Duckworth served as executive director for a year and a half of that time. The report cited $976 in travel vouchers paid to a vendor in excess of state travel allowances. Several other travel vouchers totaling $2,216 did not specifically state the purpose of travel. Plane tickets in the amount of $956 were reimbursed without proper documentation. The auditor general's office also questioned, in the report, weekend gas purchases for which it "could not determine if vehicles were used for personal purposes, other than commuting."
In addition, the report said, a fiscal year 2007 report was not completed on time, and the agency failed to conduct annual reviews of benefits received by Illinois veterans.
Jim Dahlquist, spokesman for the auditor general's office, said at the time such findings are typical in audits. He would not characterize them further, saying "we do not compare one agency's findings to another's since the nature and implications of each finding may be unique."
Duckworth's campaign first became aware of the ad after it received a "tip" from a source at WLS-TV, spokeswoman Kaitlin Fahey said, that the ad did not pass muster from the station's legal department. Stations often ask for additional documentation when they vet political ads, The campaign then began contacting other area TV stations. Sources at WBBM said the ad was on "hold" until they were told it was being recut.
Other stations did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
The commercials from the $405,000 ad buy are set to air over the next week.
This is the second commercial by Now or Never in the 8th District race. The first commercial, an $810,000 ad buy last month, paints an overwhelmingly positive picture of Walsh.
SuperPACs are outside entities that can spend unlimited amounts to support or oppose specific candidates, though they cannot coordinate directly with a campaign.
The 8th District, which includes portions of Cook, Kane and DuPage counties, has seen more than $1.6 million in outside money flow in to influence the race.