A Knoxville-based attorney wants television stations in Tennessee to stop airing an ad that says U.S. Senate candidate Manny Sethi donated to a leftist-progressive PAC in 2008.
And if the stations don’t stop then they might face legal action.
Knoxville-based attorney Billy Stokes sent the letter to various stations at an unspecified date. Members of Sethi’s campaign provided a copy of Stokes’ letter to The Tennessee Star Monday.
Sethi is running against Bill Hagerty in the Republican primary to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
“Standing with Conservatives PAC, a group supporting Ambassador Bill Hagerty, is running a false, misleading advertisement on your station attacking Dr. Manny Sethi, who is also running for U.S. Senate,” Stokes wrote.
“We ask you to cease and desist broadcasting the ad immediately.”
The ad said that Sethi donated to ActBlue. ActBlue, the ad went on to say, advocates for liberal causes and supports leftists such as Bernie Sanders.
“This claim is patently false. ActBlue, the PAC in question, is a credit card processor. Many candidates and organizations use it as a means of processing online donations. ActBlue collects, processes, and distributes money from donors to candidates. That is all,” Stokes wrote.
“ActBlue does not make independent expenditures. ActBlue does not run commercials. ActBlue does not even make strategic contributions to candidates. In most Democratic primaries, all of the candidates use ActBlue to process donations. Simply put: ActBlue does NOT advocate. They are a conduit to candidates and nothing else. To say otherwise, as this ad does, is a lie.”
Sethi Campaign Chair Chris Devaney, in an emailed statement, told the media Monday that Hagerty “is spending millions smearing Manny Sethi.”
“He should stop hiding behind his Super PAC’s false attack ads and face Dr. Sethi like a man,” Devaney said.
Stokes, in his letter, said the creators of the ad knew their attack on Sethi was false.
A new Super PAC, "Standing With Conservatives" has an ad attacking Tennessee Senate GOP candidate Manny Sethi for allegedly not being a real conservative.
It's a sterling example of how the opacity and complex nature of campaign finance can be easily twisted into an attack. pic.twitter.com/U7XXDYZBN7
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) July 18, 2020
Stokes also said Sethi’s wife donated the money, and that she donated to a candidate, a friend from school, via ActBlue. Specifically, Sethi donated $50 to Democrat Congressional candidate Tom Peirrelo in 2008 through ActBlue. Perriello won, but he served only one term. In 2018 Perriello was hired by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation.
“The ad, paid for by Standing with Conservatives PAC, is defamatory and false. We ask that you immediately cease and desist the broadcast of this advertisement,” Stokes wrote.
“The Dr. Manny Sethi campaign is prepared to take immediate legal action if this false ad is not taken off the air now.”
As The Star reported last week, Hagerty donated $1,000 each to the presidential campaigns of both Gore and George W. Bush in the year 2000, according to FEC filings. Those same filings also show that Hagerty donated to Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
Hagerty said last week that he is “the true conservative that is running for office” who worked to elect U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016.
When asked on Monday, a spokesman for Sethi’s campaign would not say which television stations received Stokes’ letter.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Manny Sethi” by Manny Sethi. Background Photo “Bill Hagerty Ad” by Jacob Rubashkin.