Fact Checker: Al Gross’s “more hiding” attack ad against Dan Sullivan

Fact Checker evaluates the accuracy and truthfulness of campaign ads.
Fact Checker, an ongoing segment, evaluates the accuracy and truthfulness of campaign ads.
Fact Checker, an ongoing segment, evaluates the accuracy and truthfulness of campaign ads.(Colin Lamar / KTUU | Colin Lamar / KTUU)
Published: Oct. 31, 2020 at 5:59 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s U.S. Senate race has drawn big advertising dollars and generated many negative claims about the candidates. In this Fact Checker segment, we look at claims made against U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan by his opponent, Dr. Al Gross.

A new television ad opens with “Dan Sullivan, more hiding.”

Attacks ads in the U.S. Senate race have increasingly accused opponents of keeping secrets.

“It’s now reported he routinely voted for policies that benefited his family’s chemical company,” continues the ad, paid for by the Dr. Al Gross for U.S. Senate campaign.

The ad accuses Sullivan of using his political power to benefit his family’s business interests.

The narrator keeps going: “They’ve paid more than $2.2 million in fines, including the release of hazardous substances.”

The ad is basically a quick summary of a recent article by Salon reporter Roger Sollenberger. Through federal senate, securities, campaign and court records, Sollenberger showed how Sullivan’s votes benefited sealant company RPM, a company founded by Sullivan’s grandfather and run by his brother. Dan Sullivan does not work for or run the family business.

“Sullivan owns up to $5 million in stock,” the ad claims.

In this race, voters are hearing a lot about money.

“He voted against oversight of the family business, while cashing in almost a half million dollars,” states the ad.

Gross, an orthopedic surgeon of self-made wealth, and Sullivan, a Marine reservist and lawyer who now serves in the U.S. Senate, are asking voters to keep a keen eye on how they each earned their money, and whose deep pockets are supporting whom.

“My opponent tells one thing to his rich, lower 48 donors, 25 million, right? Twenty-five million Alaska, almost all of it is from people who want Chuck Schumer, the senate majority leader, that’s what they want. They don’t care about our state,” said Sullivan during Debate for the State, co-hosted by Alaska’s News Source and Alaska Public Media.

“Unlike you, I didn’t go to billionaire boy rich summer camp and I don’t have a billionaire family doing direct business with the communist Chinese government. Shame on you,” Gross said at one point during the debate.

The attack ad wants voters to believe Sullivan used his powerful job as a U.S. Senator for personal gain.

We’re rating this overall impression as misleading, since the votes cast regarding toxic substances and the EPA’s authority have wider impact to industry than just one company.

We also note there are truthful statements in the ad.

U.S. Senate financial disclosures show Sullivan owns one to five million dollars worth of stock in RPM.

Also, the company and its subsidiaries have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements and regulatory fines, even as recently as this year when RPM disclosed to the Security and Exchange Commission a $1.3 million dollar settlement with the EPA over hazardous substances at an Ohio superfund site.

Sullivan has voted against EPA regulation of hazardous chemicals contained in products made and sold by RPM, and he has voted against measures that would increase the EPA’s industry oversight.

Fact Checker is an ongoing segment.

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