Ballot Box

Anti-Trump group digs in on ‘con man’ attack

Greg Nash

The ad-maker behind the infamous Willie Horton attack ad has been recruited into the increasingly well-funded and frantic Republican effort to stop Donald Trump.

Larry McCarthy, a master of attack ads who created the 1988 election ad involving an African-American criminal that was credited with helping to destroy Democrat Michael Dukakis’ candidacy, has been recruited by “Our Principles PAC,” an anti-Trump super-PAC run by former senior Mitt Romney adviser Katie Packer.

{mosads}The McCarthy recruitment was first reported by The Washington Post and was confirmed to The Hill by a source close to the group.

A new anti-Trump ad, backed by a “seven-figure” national cable buy beginning this week — which will also include targeted purchases in post-Super Tuesday states including Florida — is called “Scam,” and hits the billionaire for his controversial business venture, Trump University.

The ad opens with footage of Trump saying, “At Trump University we teach success… It’s going to happen to you.” It then cuts to news clippings of former students alleging the school was a ripoff that intentionally misled them.

Packer says the strategy behind her group’s ad is to bulldoze the two “cornerstones” of Trump’s candidacy: “That he tells it like it is, and that he’s a brilliant businessman.”

“He makes these grand claims that if you listen to his instructions you can be successful,” Packer said.

“And guess who always pays the price? It’s always poor working people who live on the edges,” she added in a Tuesday telephone interview with The Hill.

Trump has faced intensifying questions in recent days for his role in setting up the now-defunct university, which promised to teach students the secrets of his success in real estate investment.

Former students have filed lawsuits alleging that Trump University was a sham and that the teachers were unqualified and not hand-picked, as the billionaire had promised.

Trump’s rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have seized on the allegations, describing the GOP front-runner variously as a “con artist” (Rubio’s phrase) and as someone who takes advantage of working men and women (a line Cruz has been pushing out). 

Oher Republican aligned super-PACs, American Future Fund and Conservative Solutions PAC, which supports Rubio, are homing in on the Trump as “fraud” theme. Millions of dollars are now gushing into Rubio’s super-PAC, sources familiar with the group tell The Hill, and GOP donors are scrambling in a last-ditch effort to destroy Trump’s candidacy, though many worry it is too little and too late to stop the billionaire from securing the nomination.

Trump has denied the university fraud allegations and his lawyers are demanding that the American Future Fund ads be taken down.

Packer, whose group has already spent more than $4 million attacking Trump in early voting states, says she expects there will be more attacks coming along the same lines.

Exceeding $1 million, the size of the new buy suggests that Our Principles PAC has received another large influx of cash. Packer won’t discuss donors or total amounts, saying only that new money is “coming in daily.”

Most of the super-PAC’s contributions reported so far came from a single GOP mega-donor, Marlene Ricketts. Trump has already threatened the Ricketts family for coming after him. 

Asked whether there have been conversations between the anti-Trump groups, which are now all hitting the billionaire on the same theme, Packer replied, “Yeah, there’s been conversations among people that are legally permitted to have conversations.”

Super-PACs are not legally allowed to coordinate with campaigns, so Packer and the other anti-Trump groups are also taking their cues from the media appearances of Rubio and Cruz, seeing their role as amplification of the candidates’ messages attacking Trump.

“Marco Rubio is all of a sudden talking a lot about Donald Trump as a con man and it’s getting a lot of play in national news coverage,” said Packer, who supports Rubio but says she has received no payments from the Florida senator’s campaign.

“To some degree you ride the wave of where the campaign goes.”

Tags Donald Trump Marco Rubio Ted Cruz

The Hill has removed its comment section, as there are many other forums for readers to participate in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video