Google claims it was wasn't politics, just company policy that led to it rejecting campaign ads for Republican Sen. Susan Collins, the Internet giant told FOX News on Friday.
Adam Kovacevich, responding to questions via e-mail from FOX News, said Google prohibits ads that include trademarked names if those trademark holders oppose those users.
"Under our advertising policies, (link included in original text) companies and organizations that demonstrate that they own trademark rights can request that their trademarked terms not be used in the text of ads on Google. MoveOn made such a request, and as a result we required that this advertiser rewrite their ad and remove the trademarked terms."
Kovacevich said, "We are committed to fairness and freedom of expression, and recognize that the nature of political advertising is to inspire debate," he wrote.
But that's not sitting well with the Collins campaign. Lance Dutson, Collins' main Internet strategist, and president of the advertising firm Maine Coast Designs, tells FOX News that the situation reeks of unfairness.
"They (MoveOn) feel compelled to run nine television ads in the Maine market more than 12 months before the election, spending a million dollars attacking Sen. Collins, but when we seek to spend 50 to 75 cents on a Google ad to bring attention to this with MoveOn, they get the lawyers out and they come after it and shut it down," Dutson said.
Collins' campaign locked horns with MoveOn when it tried to go on the defensive by deflecting critical ads against the senator lobbed by the grassroots group. Dutson bought ads on Google that included the words, MoveOn.org. But only a couple of days after the ads went up, Google sent notice to Dutson, saying the ads were no longer allowed on the search engine and were being taken down.
The situation was first reported in The (Washington, D.C.) Examiner.
Dutson told FOX, "What we're looking at is an organization that tries to position themselves as defenders of Democracy, defenders of free speech, when in essence they're just a strictly bare-knuckle political group that are willing to kind of stoop to any level to try to win electorally," he said.
The Republican senator from Maine is fighting to retain her seat against Democratic opponent, Rep. Tom Allen. In her battle, she's come up against the vast Democratic machine, supported, in part, by the heavily funded MoveOn, which recently raised eyebrows with its "General Betray Us" ad in the New York Times in advance of General Petraus' progress report on the Iraq War.
Dutson said the campaign wanted to point out political ugliness behind how MoveOn.org was spending its vast resources in its effort to unseat Collins. The pulled ads would have appeared, for instance, when users searched Collins' name, MoveOn, or items related to the Maine senate race.
One ad, before being pulled, read: "Help Fight MoveOn.org; MoveOn's money pollutes politics. Help Maine fight back; www.susancollins.com." The link would have linked to a page on Collins' campaign Web site that directs readers to contribute money to Collins to help fight MoveOn's efforts to oust her.
Dutson has posted the now-banned ads on a blog, as well as the page that the links would have pointed to.
Complaints from the Collins' campaign might have gone unheard, at least for the time being. The decision against running the ad does not violate rules overseen by the Federal Election Commission — which covers campaign finance issues and items related to who pays for political advertising — and the Federal Communications Commission does not regulate the Internet.
Kovacevich told FOX News Google updholds freedom of expression. "We are committed to fairness and freedom of expression, and recognize that the nature of political advertising is to inspire debate," he wrote.
FOX News' William LaJeunesse and Ron Ralston contributed to this report.