MONTPELIER — The political wing of Planned Parenthood is doubling down on its attack on Republican gubernatorial nominee Phil Scott, despite protestations from the Vermont Republican Party about the group’s message.
The Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund Independent Expenditure PAC released its second television ad against Scott, the current lieutenant governor, on Monday. The 30-second spot “continues to draw the contrast on issues of choice,” according to the group’s campaign manager, Nick Charyk, between Scott and Democratic nominee Sue Minter, whom the group has endorsed.
The first ad, released last week, prompted the Vermont Republican Party to file a complaint with Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell. The GOP argued the ad included false information about Scott and violated state law preventing coordination between independent expenditure groups and candidates.
According to Jeffrey Bartley, the state GOP’s executive director, the first Planned Parenthood ad included video footage similar to what Minter used in her own campaign’s ad. He charged that the similarity amounted to coordination, especially since the PAC and Minter’s campaign used the same agency to produce ads.
“We pointed out that the footage in the Planned Parenthood ad is very similar to footage that appeared in the Sue Minter ad. It’s crystal clear that it came from the same filming,” Bartley said of the complaint.
According to Bartley, the attorney general’s office is actively reviewing the complaint filed late last week. Bartley said the party has sent two subsequent letters to Sorrell following up on the initial complaint.
“We’re doing everything we can to provide them information,” Bartley said. “We need a quick response from them.”
Sorrel’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Bartley said the first ad amounts to a “huge, substantial lie” about Scott’s position on abortion.
“It’s about the distortion of Phil Scott’s position. He is a pro-choice and to suggest otherwise is a distortion,” Bartley said.
Scott has said on numerous occasions that he is pro-choice, but supports some restrictions on abortion.
The first ad claims Scott “supported restrictions on a woman’s right to choose” and notes that Vermont Right to Life “which opposes all abortions” recommended Scott for governor.
In the second ad released Monday, Burlington resident Vicki Hart speaks into the camera and cites the recommendation from Vermont Right to Life.
“When I see Phil Scott on TV he seems different from other Republicans. But then I learned who supports him and it really concerned me. Vermont Right to Life is a group that opposes all abortion, even for victims of rape incest, and they recommended Phil Scott for governor,” she says in the ad.
Hart goes on to cite a “Seven Days fact check” that Scott supports restrictions on a woman’s right to choose.
“Phil Scott’s not different, he’s just a typical Republican,” Hart concludes.
Scott campaign coordinator Brittney Wilson called the state party’s complaint “legitimate.”
“The ads that Planned Parenthood are running are obviously deceitful. Phil is pro-choice and supports a woman’s right in every way,” she said.
Wilson said the restriction Scott does support involves parental notification when minors seek an abortion.
“He believes there should be protections in place for minors so they don’t have to go through a situation, an abortion, on their own. It’s really just about protecting youth and kids who are not old enough to make reasonable decisions, such big decisions, on their own,” she said.
Requiring parental notification that would put a minor in harm’s way is “obviously not something Phil would support,” Wilson said.
Scott supported Planned Parenthood last year when national Republicans were looking to defund the group, Wilson said. And he “still supports Planned Parenthood regardless of these attacks.”
“It’s obviously disappointing that they are attacking a pro-choice candidate and making this really partisan at a time when we should be coming together,” Wilson said. “It clearly has come down to them attacking Phil because he’s got an R next to his name. It doesn’t seem to be about the fact that he is pro-choice.”