Who Grew This Daisy?

The CBS News Political Unit is tracking the latest campaign commercials. Francesca Gessner analyzes Daisy Girl II, a controversial new ad that, in effect, accuses President Clinton and Al Gore of treason.

The Ad: A mysterious group based in Texas called Aretino Industries has released a new attack ad modeled after the infamous "Daisy" commercial that President Johnson aired (once) in 1964. The original ad showed a little girl picking petals from a daisy and ended with a countdown to a nuclear explosion. It was intended to show that Johnson's GOP foe, Barry Goldwater, might lead the U.S. into nuclear war. The new ad uses the same visuals but levels a different accusation: that President Clinton and Vice President Gore sold nuclear technology to Red China in exchange for campaign contributions. A spokesman for the group refused to disclose who was paying for the ad. Aretino Industries describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization recently created by 22 "common friends" from across the country. The initial ad buy is $60,000 but the group plans to spend $500,000 between now and Election Day. The ad is airing in Ohio, Michigan, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Audio: Announcer: "Under Republican leadership and vision, the Cold War was ended securing our children from the threat of a nuclear confrontation. Now under eight years of Clinton/Gore, our security has been sold to Communist Red China in exchange for campaign contributions. Red China was given access and sold vital technology that will give China the ability to threaten our homes with long-range nuclear warheads. If they are capable of selling our children's security, what else are they capable of? Can we really afford to take that chance?"

Visual: The ad features a young girl plucking petals from a daisy, counting each petal as the announcer speaks over her. The ad concludes with a countdown to a nuclear blast and the text "Don't Take A Chance. Please Vote Republican."

Fact check: The allegations that China received nuclear secrets from the United States in exchange for contributions to the 1996 elections are unproven.

The Strategy: Daisy Girl II targets undecided voters in six battleground states by raising questions about national security and Gore's trustworthiness. While the nuclear imagery seeks to appeal to voters' most basic fears, the reference to the 1996 fundraising scandals takes aim at one of Gore's weakest spots. Though the group calls itself nonpartisan and claims no tie to the Bush campaign, the ad's opening line crediting Republicans for ending the Cold War and its closing line "Vote Republican" clearly reveals a partisan edge.

Aretino Industries is not the first anonymous group to air ads in Campaign 2000 without disclosing its donors - a group called "Republicans for Clean Air" ran ads at the height of the Repubican primary seaspm attacking John McCain, while a group called "Shape the Debate" aired ads in late March criticizing Al Gore. While a Gore spokesman called the ad "the hidden hand of the right wing swooping in to help Texas Governor George Bush," the Bush campaign immediately denounced the ad, calling on the group to pull it off the air.