Union: Ads Chiding Ark. Senate Candidate 'Racist'

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A Virginia-based advocacy group began airing television ads in Arkansas on Monday in which Indian actors "thank" Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, claiming he outsourced jobs overseas.

The ad, which features Indian-American actors thanking Halter while superimposed in front of various street scenes in India, was denounced by Halter's campaign and that of his Democratic rival, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, as offensive. The Arkansas chapter of the AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Halter, called it "horribly racist."

The spot has been criticized as playing up stereotypes of India because it features actors with Indian accents and uses the street scenes.

"Bangalore says thanks, Bill Halter," an announcer's voice says in the ad.

The outsourcing claims stem from Halter's relationship to WebMethods Inc., a company where he once served on the board of directors.

Although the company said it saved costs by opening a Bangalore office, it's a stretch to say the firm shipped American jobs overseas. The company said in a 2006 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had cut costs by increasing the proportion of its product development staff based in Bangalore, India. The company's filings, however, do not refer to the loss of any American jobs in connection with opening the Bangalore office.

Stephen DeMaura, the president of the Virginia-based group Americans for Job Security, said he has no plans to pull the ad and that it will continue to run for two weeks.

"The airwaves are crowded there. There are a dozen or more candidates, causes or groups on the air, and we needed to design something that would cut through the clutter and actually get people to discuss this issue," DeMaura told The Associated Press. "We think that so far, that's working."

The ad began appearing on several websites Friday night, and both Lincoln and Halter took the unusual step of denouncing it before it appeared on television.

Lincoln, who has also used the outsourcing claims against Halter, on Saturday called the ad offensive, and Halter's campaign said it should never appear on television.

DeMaura says his group has bought more than $900,000 worth of airtime to run the 30-second spot in the Little Rock, Fort Smith and Jonesboro television markets. The ad began appearing on Arkansas television stations on Monday, the start of early voting for the May 18 primary.

Americans for Job Security calls itself an independent, pro-business advocacy group. The organization has also run ads in Colorado on behalf of Republican Ken Buck's Senate bid.

Halter and Lincoln have been targeted by outside groups in their fight for the Democratic nomination in Arkansas, and the two rivals have been engaged in a constant exchange of negative advertisements.

Eight Republicans are seeking the GOP nomination for Lincoln's Senate seat.