A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Picture This: McCain’s ‘Lobbyist’ Ad Misleading

It would be understandable if Arizona voters watching Sen. John McCain’s new ad came away thinking J.D. Hayworth is one of those chauffeur-driven, jet-setting Washington lobbyists. Understandable, but wrong. 

The ad started to air June 8 in advance of the Aug. 24 GOP Senate primary. We can’t quibble with the words spoken by the narrator, who states that Hayworth was a "registered lobbyist" and "was paid thousands by a Florida corporation to lobby the very committee he used to serve on." All true (as we will explain shortly). But the ad’s over-the-top images don’t match reality.

As the words "registered lobbyist" are uttered, the ad shows a limo pulling up in front of a stunning country estate home. And when the announcer says Hayworth was given "thousands by a Florida corporation," a corporate jet flies by and money rains down from the skies. Now, it’s true that Hayworth started a lobbying firm called the Great 48th Group and filed registration papers for his first client — the Wealth Transfer Group of Altamonte Springs, Fla. — on March 2008. Hayworth, a former member of the House Ways and Means Committee, reported that he would lobby for Wealth Transfer on tax issues. Ways and Means writes tax laws. But the Wealth Transfer Group was Hayworth’s one and only client. He reported earning $10,000 — yes "thousands!" — before filing a termination report a little more than a year later. As quickly as it began, Hayworth’s career as a lobbyist ended. To put Hayworth’s lobbying earnings into perspective, Patton Boggs reported earning $40 million last year — making it the top lobbying firm in Washington.

File this one under true, but misleading.