July 20, 2016: This story has been corrected.
A left-leaning veterans’ organization made its first ad buy of this election cycle last week, telling voters that Donald Trump is “too dangerous for America.”
VoteVets, the super PAC that sponsored the ad, claims more than 400,000 supporters on its website and states its mission is to “use public issue campaigns to give a voice to veterans on matters of national security, veterans’ care and every day issues” affecting veterans.
Its new ad received production assistance from Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that’s raised millions to support Hillary Clinton. The group was behind a well-known anti-Trump ad earlier this year that featured women lip-synching Trump quotes criticizing women.
Who’s behind it?
Leading VoteVets is Chairman Jon Soltz, a founder of the group and two-tour Iraq veteran. Soltz blogs for the Huffington Post and is a frequent media commentator, appearing on shows like “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” on MSNBC.
Last week, Soltz criticized Trump as not having the right temperament for commander-in-chief, stating that “emotion-based judgement will not ‘Make America Safe Again,’” in a blog post, penned with Paul Eaton, another VoteVets advisory board member. Eaton is also senior adviser to the progressive think tank National Security Network.
The VoteVets board of advisors is made up mostly of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, one of whom also served three terms as a Democratic member of the Ohio House of Representatives. Others include the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the executive director of the Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO.
Formed in 2006, the group is also backed by a number of individual donors and trade unions.
VoteVets’ Eaton, a retired U.S. Army major general, starts off the ad from behind a desk, clad in a suit and tie, saying, “I know the sacrifices our military makes.”
The ad cuts to an old photo of an Air Force pilot as Eaton speaks about his father’s service as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. He points to his own 30 years of service, saying “I’ve been responsible for the lives of our sons and daughters.”
It’s because of those sons and daughters and the rest of the country that he cannot support Donald Trump for president, he says.
“Donald Trump doesn’t have the temperament or judgment to be our commander-in-chief,” he says as the ad comes to a close. “That’s why I’m speaking out, for America.”
The group has collected about $255,000 so far this election cycle, the majority of which came from individual donors. Among the donors were engineers at Raytheon and Shell Oil, a program integrator at the Department of Defense and a number of retirees.
About $50,000 in donations to VoteVets came from trade unions, including $10,000 each from the American Federation of Government Employees PAC and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association PAC.
Other union donors included the Ironworkers Political Education Fund, Engineers Political Education Committee and the United Mine Workers of America Coal Miners PAC.
The new ad blitz cost VoteVets nearly $668,000, about $17,000 of which it paid to Priorities USA Action for advertising production costs.
VoteVets has aired more than 900 ads since July 12, according to data provided to the Center for Public Integrity by ad tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG, which monitors ads on broadcast television and national — but not local — cable.
The group’s TV ad blitz has been focused on viewers in the potential battleground states of Virginia, Colorado and Tennessee.
Why to watch this group
The group is a late-comer to what is shaping up to be the most expensive election on record. Its anti-Trump ad began airing less than a week before the Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland on Monday.
Correction, July 20, 2016, 11:05 a.m.: An earlier version of this article misidentified Paul Eaton’s rank. He is a retired U.S. Army major general.
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