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By James B. Nelson July 16, 2012

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says prostitution money is helping fund groups backing Rep. Sean Duffy’s campaign

Democrats have freshman Republican Congressman Sean Duffy, R-Wisconsin, a former Ashland County district attorney, on their 2012 targets list.

That was especially evident when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee unleashed a July 2, 2012 news release taking aim at Duffy’s campaign contributors.

The release begins: "Foreign Chinese prostitution money is allegedly behind the groups funding Congressman Sean Duffy’s (WI-07) Republican Majority."

Quite a claim. But hardly an original one.

The DCCC made an identical Chinese prostitution attack against Jim Renacci, a  Republican House member in Ohio. They also used it against Republican congressmen Scott DesJarlais in Tennessee and Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania.

What’s behind this lurid campaign finance claim?

Our colleagues in PolitiFact Ohio dug into the issue after Renacci was targeted. Here’s what they found:

The charge is tied to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who has donated millions to Republicans. A fired former employee of Adelson’s filed a lawsuit which alleges that Adelson personally approved of prostitution at properties his company owns in Macau, a former Portuguese colony near Hong Kong that now is part of China.

PolitiFact Ohio continued:

The DCCC release noted that Adelson and his wife gave $5 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC, which is backed by House Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders. FEC records indicate that Super PAC hasn’t spent anything so far.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, also gave more than $60,000 to the Republican counterpart of the DCCC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, during the past election cycle.

A spokesman for the Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, issued a statement that said Adelson has always "maintained a strong policy against prostitution on our properties and any accusation to the contrary represents a blatant and reprehensible personal attack on Mr. Adelson’s character."

In a July 9 interview with Forbes magazine,  Adelson said there’s not a "shred of evidence" to back his former employee’s charges, and "says the fact that he and his wife (a physician who specializes in treating addiction) have given millions of dollars to set up clinics around the world to treat people with drug addictions (many of them prostitutes) makes the … claims even more preposterous."  Adelson also told the publication that promoting prostitution could cost him his gaming licenses in Las Vegas, Singapore and Macau.

The DCCC says  "Adelson has given $5 million to Speaker (John) Boehner’s Congressional Leadership Fund Super PAC, pledged $5 million to Leader (Eric) Cantor’s Young Guns Network Super PAC, given $70,800 to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), and has committed at least $20 million into Karl Rove’s American Crossroads."

So Adelson has contributed or pledged plenty of money to Republican candidates or committees. That’s clear. But the Chinese prostitution link is another matter.

Here’s how PolitiFact Ohio put it in their review of the claim against Renacci:

Do unproven charges by a disgruntled former Adelson employee coupled with Adelson’s generosity to GOP groups that are likely to back Renacci justify the DCCC’s claim that "foreign Chinese prostitution money is allegedly behind the groups funding Congressman Jim Renacci’s Republican majority?"

We don’t think so.

Neither do we.

As our Ohio colleagues point out, the allegation that Adelson allowed prostitution at the Macau comes from a fired employee. The DCCC takes that claim and says money from prostitution was included in Adelson’s campaign contributions to GOP congressional incumbents -- including Duffy.

There’s no evidence that Duffy received contributions from Adelson, and he has no control over contributions to groups that support him.

"The claim that Adelson’s donations to these other groups amount to ‘Chinese prostitution money’  is dubious enough that inserting the word ‘allegedly’ can’t save it," PolitiFact Ohio wrote in its assessment.

That holds no matter what name is inserted into the cut-and-paste news release.

You can repeat a claim, but the smell of smoke remains the same. Pants on Fire.

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Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says prostitution money is helping fund groups backing Rep. Sean Duffy’s campaign

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