A political group in Virginia filed a cease-and-desist last month over an ad being paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) that targeted Democratic candidates in the House of Delegates. The RSLC followed up the next day with their own letter to the station explaining why they believe the ad accusing a state delegate of wanting to defund the police should remain on the air.
In the television ad, the RSLC cites text that was on Future Now’s website in January of 2021 indicating they support legislation that would “establish a Commission to examine police funding in state and provide evidence-based ways to generate savings and increase public safety by reallocating funds toward proven methods to support communities, and report annually with proposed action for the Executive and Legislative branches.”
The RSLC said in their response letter that “defunding the police has been defined, at its core, as the reallocation of money from policing to other agencies funded by local municipalities.”
They used that statement and Future Now’s endorsement to attack one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House, Roslyn Tyler (HD-75). “Tyler is backed by a radical, liberal group that pushed to defund the police,” the tv ad says. The source of the attack listed on the ad is the Future Now Fund’s endorsement on Twitter.
Tyler has represented the 75 district since 2006 and defeated Otto Wachsmann in 2019 by one percentage point. Republicans are really focused on helping Wachsmann beat Tyler this time around in the rematch. The RSLC has spent $56,218 in total on tv ads against Tyler in 2021 so far. Tyler’s campaign did not provide comment for this article.
In an attempt to remove the ad from the air, lawyers for the Future Now Fund sent a cease-and-desist letter to Comcast on Aug 19.
“This advertisement contains a blatant falsehood about Future Now Fund (FNF) and State Delegate Roslyn Tyler, aimed at deceiving Virginia voters,” the lawyers wrote in the cease-and-desist. ”What’s worse, the advertisement defames FNF by using a known falsehood to try to force Del. Tyler to disassociate from the organization. This ad should be pulled from the air immediately; FNF is prepared to use all legal avenues available to protect its reputation from this false attack.”
In the letter, the lawyers write that the Future Now Fund organization has never pushed to defund police departments. “While FNF is proud to have endorsed Del. Tyler, FNF does not, and has never, pushed to ‘defund the police,’ making the ad’s statement blatantly false and defamatory,” the letter reads.
It continues to say that the Future Now Fund has never advocated for reallocating police funding. “Rather, [Future Now Action] has recommended that states study their funding systems to determine whether some such funding may be more effectively used to prevent crime and increase public safety. It did not advocate or ‘push for’ for any policy that cuts police budgets.”
Future Now Action is affiliated but a separate entity from Future Now Fund. They share the same website.
“These false and defamatory attacks lied about our organization in an attempt to smear a candidate,” said Simone Leiro, the Director of Communications for Future Now. “So we reached out to the station, with the track record of reporting that has called these attacks lies in order to make clear that these ads were false.”
The RSLC sent their own letter to the station the following day on Aug. 20. “We believe that Future Now’s claim is baseless and that your station should continue airing the advertisement,” the lawyers for RSLC wrote.
The Republican lawyers cited the first amendment and a screenshot of the Future Now website in January of 2021 where they promoted legislation calling for the reallocation of police funding.
“RSLC PAC remains committed to America’s rich tradition of vigorous, open debate about candidates and the government officials who make the decisions that shape their everyday lives – including on issues affecting their safety and security,” the letter continues. “Your station ought to see Future Now’s letter for what it really is: a disingenuous attempt to distinguish between its two entities to cover up from their support of an unpopular policy position.”
The ad remained on the air.
Future Now is currently going through a rebranding process and is transitioning to The States Project. Their social media content is being transferred as well. They deleted their Future Now Twitter profile where all the endorsements were originally announced, though are still available to be viewed on their new website.
The Future Now Fund has given $305,000 to Virginia Democrats in 2021.
Early voting has already begun but Democrats are fearful that enthusiasm will be lower due to Donald Trump’s 2020 loss and President Biden’s current unpopularity.
Republicans are hoping that they can crack into the 55-45 majority that the Democrats gained in 2019 to take control of the chamber.
Election day is Nov. 2.
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