McCain Ad Cites Discredited Claim That Dems Sent Team to Dig Up Palin Dirt

Yesterday, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal reported that “Democrats have airdropped a mini-army of 30 lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers into Anchorage, the state capital Juneau and Mrs. Palin’s hometown of Wasilla to dig into her record and background.”

The story was quickly seized on by Republicans eager to portray a Democratic vendetta against Palin. Sean Hannity repeated it on Fox last night. And now the McCain campaign has released an ad that cites Fund’s report, and depicts the Democratic investigators as wolves on the prowl.

There’s only one problem: It appears not to be true. Within hours, the DNC’s research director, Mark Gehrke, had issued a blanket denial, to The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder, who reported: “‘Not a single person from DC or Chicago has traveled to Alaska to do research,’ [Gehrke] writes. Not a single Obama staffer, not a DNC staffer, not a hired gun, he says.” Gehrke repeated that denial to TPM’s Election Central just now.

And today, a DNC spokesman sent the following statement to TPMmuckraker: “Like most of what the McCain has been based on lately – this is another lie. A dishonorable and dishonest campaign spreading another lie.”

The Obama campaign referred TPMmuckraker to Gehrke’s denial. In addition, the chair of the Alaska Democratic party, Mike Coumbe, who has been in close touch with the national party since Palin was named to the GOP ticket, told TPMmuckraker that he has received no information from the national party or the Obama campaign that would support Fund’s claim. That was echoed by another top Alaska Democratic Party official, Kay Brown, as well as other leading Democrats in the state.

Fund did not immediately respond to a call and email from TPMmuckraker requesting comment.

Late update: Fund tells TPMmuckraker that he stands by his story — though he could not be specific about which Democrats he was referring to — and will have additional information later today.