The Pittsburgh television market has been flooded with more campaign ads in Pennsylvania’s high-stakes U.S. Senate race than any other place in the state, according to data obtained by the Tribune-Review.
So far, all of the ads are from Republicans.
Advertising data shows the Pittsburgh market received 18,074 Gross Rating Points — or GRPs — in GOP Senate ads between Nov. 30 and last Tuesday. GRPs are a measurement of advertisements’ reach and frequency. Pittsburghers have received about eight times what is considered adequate when it comes to the reach and frequency of the GOP Senate ads.
The Pittsburgh market includes 13 Western Pennsylvania counties surrounding Pittsburgh, Monongalia and Preston counties in West Virginia and Garrett County in Maryland. Republican candidates and super PACs have spent more than $30 million so far trying to sway voters in the Senate race, data showed.
Super PACs are independent political action committees that can raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions, associations and individuals. While they aren’t allowed to communicate or work directly with campaigns, super PACs can spend their money supporting a candidate or running ads against that candidate’s opponents.
The vast majority of the Senate are coming from or in support of surgeon and television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz of Montgomery County and former hedge fund CEO and veteran David McCormick, who recently bought a house in Pittsburgh.
In addition to Oz and McCormick, the crowded GOP field also includes business owner Jeff Bartos, political commentator Kathy Barnette, attorney George Bochetto, former Montgomery County Commissioner candidate Sean Gale, former U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands and businessman Everett Stern. The Democratic race is down to Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb.
Here’s a look at some of the most heavily aired ads in the race:
Super PAC ad attacks McCormick
It claims McCormick invested billions of dollars in China. McMormick served as CEO of Bridgewater Associates from 2020 until Jan. 3, when he stepped down to run for Senate. In November, Bridgewater launched a $1.25 billion investment fund in China, with vocal support from Bridgewater founder Ray Dialo, the Wall Street Journal reported.
After news of the investment broke, McCormick said he disagreed with Dialo’s stances on China, according to Bloomberg.
McCormick campaign spokesperson Jess Szymanski touted McCormick’s experience in the Bush administration negotiating trade deals with China and said that “under his hard-line approach, some of the toughest regulations on China were enacted.”
“Dave’s reputation holding China accountable — both in government and in business — underscores his commitment to strong America First policies that will bring jobs and economic growth back to Pennsylvania,” Szymanski said.
The super PAC ad also hits McCormick by claiming he cut 50 Pennsylvania jobs and then outsourced 100 new jobs overseas, highlighting India and China.
McCormick headed the online auction service FreeMarkets Inc. in the early 2000s. It laid off 50 people in Pittsburgh in 2003, and then a month later announced it was opening a new facility in India employing 100 people. In a New York Post story, McCormick’s allies defended the move, arguing the timing of the firings and international hirings were not directly linked, and said McCormick fought to try to keep the new jobs in America.
The ad also said McCormick “criticized President Trump’s efforts to get tough on China.” In 2019, McCormick said he felt trade talks between the United States and China were going in the wrong direction for both sides, with both countries “weaponizing exports.”
The super PAC ad initially claimed that Trump fired McCormick from his former advising role. But McCormick wasn’t let go, and the ad was changed to omit any mention of Trump firing McCormick, instead ending with the claim that he “criticized President Trump’s China policy — that’s not putting America first.”
Super PAC ad attacks Oz
An ad from Honor Pennsylvania, a super PAC supporting McCormick, calls Oz a R.I.N.O. — an acronym for Republican In Name Only. The ad claims he’s secretly a liberal who is just pretending to have conservative values to win the Senate race.
The ad claimed Oz “wanted to take away your gun rights,” referring to a 2019 episode of the Dr. Oz Show in which he voiced support for so-called “red flag” laws allowing police or family members to petition state courts for the temporary removal of firearms from people who they think present a danger to others or themselves. Oz has since said he supports the Second Amendment and is opposed to any law that “prevents a law-abiding American from purchasing a gun without due process and fair adjudication.”
The ad also points to Oz’s past comments praising Obamacare, which Republicans tried to repeal during Trump’s term. In 2010, Oz appeared in an ad promoting the health care law in California. In 2016, he said Obamacare was a “very brave effort to include more Americans in the health care system.”
The super PAC ad also attacked Oz for his past comments on abortion and claimed he “attacked pro-life legislation.” In a 2019 radio interview, Oz expressed concern that anti-abortion advocates would overturn Roe v. Wade and legislators would pass abortion restrictions. He said that while he was not personally supportive of abortion, people should have the choice.
The ad also attacked Oz and claims that his family’s business hired undocumented immigrants. In 2017, Asplundh Tree Experts Co. was penalized for knowingly employing undocumented immigrants, according to a release from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Asplundh was co-founded by the maternal grandfather of Oz’s wife, Lisa, and Oz is listed as a shareholder on the company’s website. The Oz campaign responded to this criticism in the New York Post, saying “Dr. Oz and Lisa Oz are passive shareholders in the company along with 200+ other family members” and have never worked nor had any involvement in the company’s decision-making.
The ad says, “Oz might be right for Hollywood, but he’s wrong for Pennsylvania.”
Oz’s campaign didn’t return messages from the Trib.
Oz attack ad against McCormick
This 15-second ad from the Oz campaign also claims McCormick “invested billions in China,” referring to the Bridgewater investment there in November and founder Dialo’s vocal support for it. McCormick tried to distance himself from the investment.
Szymanski, the McCormick spokeswoman, called the ad’s claims “lies spread by desperate political opponents.”
“While Mehmet has been silent on China until he needed to knock down Dave’s credentials, Dave was serving our country and standing up to the (Chinese Communist Party),” Szymanski said.
McCormick anti-Biden ad
After the Super Bowl, McCormick aired a 30-second ad in the Pittsburgh market criticizing President Biden. The ad repeats the slogan “Let’s Go Brandon,” slang for a derogatory phrase criticizing Biden.
The ad said inflation has reached record highs (it increased 7% last year, a 39-year high) and the U.S. trade deficit hit a record high, which it did in September at $80.9 billion, though this was blamed on supply-chain issues caused by record demand for consumer goods.
The ad also featured headlines criticizing Biden’s pull-out of troops in Afghanistan and allegations that “Big Tech is silencing conservative voices.”
It also showed a partial New York Times headline “illegal border crossings soar to record high.” The full headline from October was, “Illegal Border Crossings, Driven by Pandemic and Natural Disasters, Soar to Record High.” Illegal border crossings into the United States last year topped 1.7 million, the most since 1960. The Biden administration has left a public health rule first invoked by Trump in 2020 in place to seal the border.
False covid-19 claims
Both Oz and McMormick have claimed that covid-19 was either created by China or intentionally sent to the United States by China.
In his ad, McCormick said, “We all know China created covid.”
This statement was deemed false by PolitiFact, which said there is no clear evidence supporting the claim.
Similarly, an Oz ad said, “China sent us covid,” implying intent on China’s part even though fact-checkers have said the virus either originated naturally or from a lab accident.