Dark-money attack ad pastes swastikas on House candidate

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Valerie Plame

Congressional candidate and former CIA operative Valerie Plame of Santa Fe, N.M., seeks support from local party delegates at the Democratic Party preprimary convention in Pojoaque, N.M., Saturday, March 7, 2020. Candidates for open congressional and Senate seats underwent the first test of their political might as the Democratic and Republican parties of New Mexico held statewide conventions. The conventions decide the ballot order for candidates in the state’s primary election on June 2. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Who is afraid of Valerie Plame?

Incendiary new political attack ads against the former CIA operative and candidate for a northern New Mexico congressional seat portray Plame as a “disgraced racist millionaire” and can be traced to the Alliance for Combating Extremism Fund.

The Washington, D.C.-based fund doesn’t disclose donors, and its only known activity is to denounce Plame on websites and social media ads in English and Spanish.

Amid her first bid for public office, Plame already is well recognized across the country as the former U.S. intelligence operative whose secret identity was exposed shorty after her diplomat husband disputed U.S. intelligence used to justify the 2003 Iraq invasion.

President Donald Trump recently pardoned vice presidential aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby of his conviction for lying and obstruction during the investigation into the leak of Plame’s covert identity.

Plame said in a statement that the new attack ads are disgusting and have hardened her resolve for campaign finance reforms that would restrict so-called dark money — political spending that cannot be traced.

She reiterated her apologies and attempts to atone for sharing on Twitter in 2017 an article with anti-Semitic expressions, saying that she opposes anti-Semitism and prejudice in every form.

Ian Sugar, president of the the Alliance to Combat Extremism Fund, said in an email that the independent political expenditure group is supported by people who want to combat extremism in politics and rebuild trust in democracy.

He declined to name sponsors of the organization, return a phone call or answer further questions.

The group’s attack ads hound Plame for allegedly being embraced by white supremacists and use an image of the candidate with swastikas imposed over her eyes.

Jon Soltz, chairman of the politically progressive advocacy group for military veterans VoteVets, denounced the use of Nazi imagery and called for the ads to be taken down.

Plame is competing with six other Democratic candidates to succeed U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan as he runs in an open race for U.S. Senate. Sen. Tom Udall is retiring.

Another prominent candidate, Teresa Leger Fernandez, called the attack ads extremely offensive and sexist, and said her campaign has no connection to the group behind it.

Independent expenditure groups are airing flattering ads about Leger Fernandez, with financial support from undisclosed sources.

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