The ads say Democratic congressional candidate Alice J. Kryzan "worked against the victims of Love Canal" -- and that her Republican rival, Chris Lee, "made a fortune from the sale of his company to a corporation he knew sent sensitive national defense technology to China."
But the ads -- surprise, surprise! -- are grossly misleading.
Each side in the 26th Congressional District race worked hard Tuesday to discredit the ads sponsored by party committees on the other side.
Kryzan held a news conference with lawyers who represented the residents of Love Canal to refute the National Republican Congressional Committee's radio ads and fliers attacking her.
And Lee, in an interview, pushed back hard against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's charges against him.
Those attempts at amending the record come in the face of a $1.7 million barrage -- $1.3 million from the Democratic committee and the rest from the Republican committee -- in one of the hottest congressional races in the country.
While the Democrats have dramatically outspent the GOP, the GOP has the newest ad on the radio and in local mailboxes.
The radio ad reiterates the flier, which says: "Tragedy. Alice Kryzan worked against the victims of Love Canal. Love Canal remains one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history. Now one of the corporate lawyers who defended the polluter wants to be in Congress."
Two of the lawyers who represented Love Canal residents, Richard Lippes and Richard Berger, endorsed Kryzan and refuted the flier's claims.
"This camp literature is outrageous because the truth is exactly the opposite of what the literature says," Lippes said. "Alice's law firm represented the defendant in the lawsuit . . . But she did it in a way that was tremendously instrumental in assuring that all the parties came together for a just resolution of the case."
Noting that the lawsuit could still be going on today if Kryzan had not worked so hard to reach a settlement, Lippes said the flier is "simply not true."
The news conference came on the same day that the Buffalo Niagara Partnership endorsed Lee, and a day after 76 employers of Enidine, Lee's former company, published an ad in The Buffalo News to defend him against the Democratic campaign committee's ads.
"Chris Lee is running on a pro-business platform that is virtually in lock step with the Partnership's federal agenda," said Andrew J. Rudnick, the Partnership's president.
But the Democratic ad makes Lee's platform look much more sinister.
"Congressional candidate Chris Lee hid the facts about his company employing labor in China," it says. "Even worse, Lee made a fortune from the sale of his company to a corporation he knew sent sensitive national defense technology to China and then admitted the crime and paid a $100 million penalty."
That ad prompted those Enidine employees to write a "letter to Alice Kryzan" that said "no one in Western New York has ever lost a job to Enidine's interests overseas."
Lee said no U.S. jobs were shifted to Enidine's Chinese operation. In fact, Enidine's U.S. employment grew in its last years under the Lee family's ownership.
And while the Lee family did sell the company to ITT Corp., that company sold that sensitive information to China six years earlier. Lee acknowledged he knew about ITT's legal problems but said they occurred in a separate division that had nothing to do with the sale.
As for the candidates in the 26th District race, they both said the other side made them feel violated.
"Of all the falsehoods that the Lee campaign and Lee supporters have spewed out against me, this is the one I feel most strongly about," said Kryzan, who accused Lee of exploiting Love Canal for political purposes.
Meanwhile, Lee -- who acknowledged that he said in a September Buffalo News interview that Love Canal should not be an issue in the race -- defended the GOP ad as based on the fact that Kryzan worked for Occidental Chemical Corp.
Regarding the ads about his company, Lee said: "My family and my patriotism have been smeared. I have taken this very personally. I have had people come up to me at debates and say I can't vote for you because you gave secrets to China. It's the most absurd thing."
The controversy over the ads comes amid signs that the race between Kryzan and Lee is extraordinarily tight.
Charles Cook of the Cook Political Report, one of Washington's top political prognosticators, rated the race a "toss-up" Tuesday.
>The party committees twist the truth
Sponsor: National Republican Congressional Committee
What the flier says: "Tragedy. Alice Kryzan worked against the victims of Love Canal. Love Canal remains one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history. Now one of the corporate lawyers who defended the polluter wants to be in Congress. Alice Kryzan was a corporate lawyer who defended the polluter, Occidental Chemical, against personal injury claims from 1,500 people after the company dumped 22,000 tons of toxic waste into Love Canal. ... Don't reward her with a seat in Congress."
The facts: Kryzan was part of the defense team put together to defend against a lawsuit brought by Love Canal residents. Chris Lee, Kryzan's Republican opponent for Congress, said in a September interview that Kryzan's work representing the Love Canal polluters should not be an issue in the campaign. And two lawyers who represented the Love Canal residents, Richard Lippes and Richard Berger, held a news conference Tuesday to defend Kryzan's work in the case, saying she played a critical role in negotiating a fair settlement for the residents. "Without her participation, that litigation might still be going on today," said Lippes, who called the Republican flier "simply untrue."
Sponsor: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
What the ad says: "NAFTA has already cost New York over 50,000 jobs. But congressional candidate Chris Lee chose to employ labor in China, work that could have been done right here. Lee tried to hide the facts, removing all mention of his company employing workers in China from his campaign Web site, hoping you wouldn't learn the truth. Chris Lee. A record of employing labor in China we can't afford."
The facts: The ad mentions the North American Free Trade Agreement but never explains its relevance to Lee or trade with China. The Lee family business had a facility in China, but Lee says the operation was limited to Asian sales and marketing efforts, plus some assembly work. He says the products assembled in China were sold only in Asia, and not a single local job ever was exported to China. The company, in fact, employed 338 people when it was sold last year, up from 85 in 1989.
Employees of Lee's former company took out an ad in Monday's Buffalo News, saying: "Enidine has never operated in a manner that would violate our national security or the laws of the United States." As for the allegation that Lee tried to hide his company's role in China, the campaign acknowledges changing his Web site biography, replacing the one mention of China with Asia.