STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, Im Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And Im Renee Montagne.
As we get closer to the midterm elections, the attack ads get nastier. And this may be a good time to remember the reason many negative ads have historically been produced. They're not necessarily designed to get you to vote. In fact, some seem intended to make you so depressed you dont vote at all.
INSKEEP: So that is the context in which many people noticed an ad in Nevada's Senate race. Senate majority leader Harry Reid faces Republican challenger Sharron Angle, and one attack ad made explicit what other ads seem only to imply. It told Latino voters, quote, "Don't vote."
NPR's Peter Overby asked what the ad's creator really meant.
PETER OVERBY: The ad comes from a small group in Virginia, called Latinos for Reform. It accuses both parties of neglecting Latinos but it dwells on Democrats. It says Democratic leaders, including Harry Reid, are taking Hispanic voters for granted.
(Soundbite of Latinos for Reform political ad)
Unidentified Man: (Spanish language spoken)
OVERBY: Yes, you heard me right. The ad says: Don't vote; it's our only chance to get them to take us seriously.
Reid promptly tied the ad to Sharron Angle, his opponent. Here he is at a rally Tuesday.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada, Majority Leader): Listen to her latest: running ads on Hispanic television telling people not to vote.
(Soundbite of booing)
Sen. REID: She's trying to keep people from voting.
OVERBY: The ad was scheduled to run on Univision. The network rejected it. And some of the nation's largest Hispanic groups said it was telling Spanish-speaking voters to just stay home.
Mr. BRENT WILKES (Director, League of United Latin American Citizens): That's what we find especially troubling and cynical about the ad.
OVERBY: Brent Wilkes is director of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Mr. WILKES: It's unlikely that Republicans or Democrats will pay much attention to Latinos if they're not voting.
OVERBY: In the Nevada Senate race, Reid desperately needs the votes of Latinos. They make up more than 25 percent of the population. And the Pew Hispanic Center says that in 2008, they voted three to one for President Obama.
So, is the ad telling them to sit out the election? Absolutely not, says Robert Deposada who produced it. In an interview yesterday, he said the message is to boycott politicians who haven't lived up to their promises. He said there's no attempt to suppress the vote, just a problem fitting everything into the 60-second time frame.
Mr. ROBERT DEPOSADA (Chairman, Latinos for Reform): The last part of the ad, the tag line, said: Don't vote for those who betrayed you. And because of timing, we decided to cut that - for those who betrayed you - because we thought that the message was clear in the rest of the ad.
OVERBY: He said he takes full responsibility for the editing job. This is the first ad by Latinos for Reform this election cycle. Two years ago, the group ran an ad alleging that candidate Barack Obama discriminated against Latinos. And there are connections between Latinos for Reform and the Republican establishment.
Deposada worked at the Republican National Committee and in the Justice Department during President George W. Bush's first term. The treasurer of Latinos for Reform is a lobbyist who raised $100,000 for the Bush campaign in 2004 and $50,000 for GOP nominee John McCain in 2008.
But yesterday, Deposada said Republicans have written off the Hispanic community. And while he's bashing Reid, he said that doesn't mean he's supporting Sharron Angle, who has aggressively courted the anti-immigration vote.
Mr. DEPOSADA: Do you prefer to be stabbed in the back or clubbed over the head? I think both are irresponsible. Both are horrible options. But you know what? Sharron Angle is not going to be in a leadership post.
OVERBY: Which means at least she wouldn't control the flow of legislation, as Reid has done.
At LULAC, Brent Wilkes says Deposada's whole argument just doesn't hold up.
Mr. WILKES: It's just not believable. I mean the whole ad is about don't vote, stay home. There's not only the words, but the pictures that they show.
(Soundbite of a song)
OZOMATLI (Band): (Singing in Spanish)
OVERBY: And yesterday, the National Council of La Raza released a free download by the band Ozomatli, out of Los Angeles. It tells listeners to: Vote your conscience today.
Peter Overby, NPR News.