Secret corporate dollars running 'barely true' political ads in Pa.

Just four weeks away from today, the 2010 mid-term elections are increasingly becoming a matter of bait-and-switch. The bait is the angry middle-class voter, showing up in a variety of forms, from Glenn Beck-dittohead Tea Partiers to the not-paying-close-attention-but-lets-throw-the-bums-out-middle.

The switch is the millionaires and billionaires tapping into that dissatisfaction to get the satisfaction that they want, which has precious little to do with why regular folks are so angry.  It has to do with helping Big Insurance or Big Banks or killing off any tax hikes on the wealthiest 2 percent. And 98 percent of America won't know what hit us until all the votes have been counted:

A massive $4.2 million ad buy announced Tuesday by American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS erases any doubts that the groups, conceived by veteran GOP operatives Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, have the cash to be major players in next month's election.

And with nearly 75 percent of the buy paid for by undisclosed donors, the expenditure highlights a trend that has shaped the midterm campaigns and could have far-reaching consequences in American politics: the shift to anonymous political activity.

One of the races that American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS is targeting is here in Pennsylvania -- attacking the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Rep. Joe Sestak, for the benefit of former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey, also a former leader of the pro-business Club for Growth.

Among the many, many worries about these big-money, anonymous hit jobs -- cleared by the corporatist Roberts Court and its Citizens United ruling -- is that the ads will be false or highly misleading, and there'll be no way to hold anyone accountable for the lies or half-truths. Here in Pennsylvania, the Pulitzer Prize-winning watchdog group Politifact has already looked at the ads that the Rove-linked Crossroads GPS is running against Sestak, and here's a surprise.

They are "barely true."

So let's recap. The ad is on fairly safe ground in suggesting that Pennsylvania's 854,489 seniors on Medicare Advantage will see a decline in benefits, but it ignores the fact that no basic benefits will be cut. Meanwhile, the ad uses what we consider overheated language. The changes set in motion by the new law don't strike us, or several experts we spoke to, as ones that will "gut" the program or "jeopardize access to care for millions." So we rate the ad Barely True.

And frankly it reads like the folks at Politifact are overly generous -- if the ad says Sestak voted to "gut" Medicare but he didn't vote to "gut" Medicare, well, is that what passes for "barely true" in politics these days? I'm not even sure that qualifies as "truthiness."

You could write a letter complaining, but like James Taylor in "Fire and Rain," I just can't remember who to send it to.

Stay tuned. Because this is going to get a lot uglier.