MADISON, Wis. — A super PAC supporting Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson sent more than 20 Wisconsin radio stations an ad that compared him with other Republicans who used to be Democrats, including Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who faces calls to resign amid a sex scandal.
Americas PAC leader Tom Donelson said Monday he sent a replacement ad before the original was supposed to air last week, but some stations broadcast the one favorably comparing Nicholson and the embattled Greitens. The original ad was made months ago and should not have been sent to the stations, Donelson said.
"I can only say it was one of those deals where a mistake was made," he said.
Nicholson is running against state Sen. Leah Vukmir in the Aug. 14 GOP primary. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November.
Nicholson's campaign spokesman Brandon Moody said only that decisions made by outside groups such as Americas PAC aren't in Nicholson's control.
Nicholson was head of the College Democrats in 2000 but has since become a Republican. He has said his experiences in the Marines and in the business world led him to make the switch. But Vukmir, a 15-year veteran of the state Legislature and close ally of Gov. Scott Walker, has said she is the only proven and trusted conservative in the race.
Vukmir's campaign manager Jess Ward reacted to the Nicholson ad saying, "Leah doesn't need to rely on anyone else's out-of-state conservative credentials. She has her own."
Americas PAC is one of several outside groups that has spent millions on Nicholson's behalf. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Americas PAC has spent $3.3 million for Nicholson and attacking Baldwin so far.
Americas PAC has received $3.5 million since 2015 from Richard Uihlein, the billionaire founder of shipping and packaging supply giant Uline Corp. Uihlein also gave $350,000 to Greitens in 2015 and 2016.
In Americas PAC's radio ad, a deep-voiced narrator cited examples of others who have made the switch from Democrat to Republican, including the governor of West Virginia and Ronald Reagan.
The original ad mentioned "the governor of Missouri." Although Greitens wasn't mentioned by name, the spot included audio of him saying, "All of those things made me a conservative, not by birth but by conviction."
The narrator went on to say, "Like the governors of Missouri and West Virginia, Kevin Nicholson left the Democrat Party. Kevin Nicholson chose to be a conservative Republican."
Greitens was indicted in February and faces a felony invasion of privacy trial in two weeks related to an extramarital affair. He is accused of taking a partially nude photo without the woman's permission in 2015, before he was elected. Greitens has faced calls for resignation or impeachment since a special House committee's report this month included the woman's testimony in which she said his sexual aggressiveness sometimes left her crying and afraid.
Donelson, the PAC's leader, said the reason he didn't want the spot comparing Nicholson to Greitens to run was "self-evident." Donelson took responsibility for sending stations the wrong ad.
"Nobody should be running that older ad," he said.
Instead of referencing Greitens, the latest version instead compares Nicholson to "conservative icon" Phil Gramm, a former senator and congressman who switched from being a Democrat to Republican in 1983.