By Will Dooling on August 16, 2012

Karl Rove's dark money group Crossroads GPS is telling whoppers again, this time in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race in North Dakota. The ad claims Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic candidate running against Republican Rep. Rick Berg, purchased private planes using taxpayer dollars during her tenure as the state's Attorney General, charges Heitkamp says are "completely false." The $191,000 ad buy began airing on August 8th, but was pulled off the air by the 10th. Crossroads GPS recently aired a new version of the ad with only minor changes.

DOD Donated Planes; Also Used for Drug Enforcement

The original ad begins by asking, "What's Heidi Heitkamp hiding on taxes?" and proceeds to attack her for purportedly supporting higher taxes and spending "taxpayer dollars on private planes."

The ad leaves the impression that Heitkamp is jetting around in private planes fueled by the taxpayers. In reality, the planes were donated to North Dakota at no cost: surplus acquisitions from the Department of Defense. Moreover, one of the planes was used for anti-drug surveillance and transportation of drug teams, dog teams and other resources to improve local drug enforcement efforts, according to the Bismarck Tribune. The other plane was stripped for parts.

The ads targeting Heitkamp went down shortly after her campaign sent a request to North Dakota TV stations to stop airing them. GPS spokesman Nate Hodson told the Huffington Post that the group pulled the ads voluntarily after they noticed "a content issue," though Politico reports that station KMXC informed Crossroads GPS about the incorrect information well in advance of the ad going on air.

The ad has now been re-aired, with only a single line changed. Instead of saying that Heitkamp has spent taxpayer dollars on private planes, the ad now says Heitkamp "allowed staff to fly a taxpayer funded plane," without disclosing the purpose or the donation.

What Is Karl Rove Smoking?

Crossroads GPS is a secretly-funded 501(c)(4) nonprofit, part of Karl Rove's media empire which also includes the Super PAC American Crossroads. Crossroads GPS's tax status means that it does not have to disclose where its money is coming from -- which means its donors can escape accountability for funding such misleading claims.

As a 501(c)(4) influencing elections cannot be GPS' primary activity, but they have spent at least $41.7 million influencing this year's election and seem to do little else. The group's latest attack against Heitkamp was part of a larger $3.4 million dollar buy aimed at close U.S. Senate races in Missouri, Montana, Virginia, and North Dakota. Their ad buy in North Dakota, $191,000, is big money in a small market.