Super PAC Ad Suggests Russ Feingold's Support For Iran Nuclear Deal Will Blow Up The World

The ad features children counting down prior to a nuclear explosion.

A conservative super PAC is out with a new ad against Democratic Wisconsin Senate candidate Russ Feingold, implying that his support for President Barack Obama’s diplomatic deal with Iran threatens to throw the world into a nuclear holocaust. 

The ad will air statewide and was put out by Reform America Fund, a group that backs Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Feingold’s opponent. It starts with children counting down from 10 in different languages, but before they can finish, a mushroom cloud fills the screen and a message says, “A nuclear Iran is a threat to the world. Russ Feingold supports the Iran nuclear deal.”

The ad evokes President Lyndon B. Johnson’s controversial “Daisy” ad, which featured a young girl in a field, counting the petals on a daisy before she’s interrupted by a man counting down and a nuclear explosion. It was meant to frighten voters about the candidacy of Republican Barry Goldwater. 

Last summer, Obama explained that the Iran nuclear deal ― negotiated by the United States and five other world powers ― was “our best means of assuring that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.”

Iran promised to cap and downsize its nuclear program in exchange for some relief from economic sanctions. Once the deal is implemented, Iran will have disposed of much of its stockpile of uranium and slashed the number of centrifuges it spins. Iran is still bound to United Nations inspections and the reintroduction of sanctions if it reneges on the agreement.

Feingold, who is running to retake his old seat from Johnson, stressed in August 2015 that the Iran deal kept military options on the table while working toward a diplomatic solution. 

We’re not giving anything up, really,” Feingold said. “We could attack them tomorrow. If they violate these rules, the sanctions can go back into place almost immediately if the United States doesn’t object. And so here’s a chance to actually prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon. The alternative is nothing ... and we’ll be stuck with one choice: a war, which I think would be unwise.’”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republicans in Congress ― including Johnson ― opposed the deal, but nonproliferation experts and others in the international community widely supported it.

The claim that the nuclear deal will help Iran get a nuclear weapon is just wrong, Matthew Bunn, a nuclear specialist at the Harvard Kennedy School, told PolitiFact last year.

“The terms of the deal require Iran to reduce its installed centrifuges by two-thirds, eliminate almost all of its stock of enriched uranium, modify its Arak reactor to drastically reduce its ability to produce plutonium, and to accept much broader inspections,” Bunn said. “Those actions would slow and impede any nuclear weapons effort, not facilitate and accelerate it.”

Johnson has claimed that Iran’s frozen assets, which will be freed up when sanctions are lifted, will go “directly to terrorism.” Secretary of State John Kerry has conceded that some of the money could ultimately end up with groups involved in terrorism, but PolitiFact concluded it was not the direct pipeline that Johnson suggested. 

“Although Iran has more than $100 billion in available frozen assets — most of it in banks in China, Japan and South Korea — slightly less than half will more or less automatically go to preexisting debts,” The Washington Post reported in January. “How the rest is spent will reveal the direction of internal power struggles between Iranian hard-liners and pragmatists.”

Reform America Fund, which started in the summer of 2015, initially said “every single penny” it raises will go toward helping Johnson get elected. However, it recently launched a $1.2 million ad campaign targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. 

The super PAC’s biggest donor appears to be Diane Hendricks, a Wisconsin billionaire and Trump supporter who backs the Koch brothers’ political network.

“Wisconsin voters should be alarmed by Senator Feingold’s continued support for the Iran nuclear deal,” said Chris Martin, Reform America Fund spokesman, “which, according to the Associated Press, allows the leading state sponsor of terrorism to oversee its own nuclear site inspections while they continue conducting ballistic missile tests in blatant violation of U.N. security resolutions.”

This piece has been updated with comment from Martin. 

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