The Texas filmmaker Richard Linklater has directed a series of ads for a super PAC working to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, starting with a spot that mocks the Republican's "Tough as Texas" campaign slogan.
The 30-second ad, which is running on social media, features actor Sonny Carl Davis, who reprises a memorable scene from Linklater's 2011 film "Bernie" to question Cruz's toughness for embracing Donald Trump after he attacked Cruz's family during the 2016 presidential primary. The spot opens with Davis reciting the slogan and laughing at the thought of it.
"I mean, come on, if somebody called my wife a dog and said my daddy was in on the Kennedy assassination, I wouldn't be kissing their ass," Davis says. "You stick a finger in their chest and give them a few choice words — or you drag their ass out by the woodshed and kick their ass, Ted."
"C'mon," Davis adds. "Ted."
Cruz has spoken often about the decision he faced following his bitter battle against Trump. During his recent debate with Democratic opponent Beto O'Rourke, Cruz insisted that he could have opted to "take my marbles and go home" but chose to get behind Trump and work with him for the good of Texas.
FTC PAC said the spot with Davis was the "first in a series of ads directed" by Linklater, the Austin writer and director who has been nominated for five Academy Awards. Linklater and Davis volunteered their time for the project, according to the group.
The Linklater ads come as allies of O'Rourke, an El Paso congressman, look for ways to help a candidate who has sworn off attack ads in his own campaign as they rain down from the other side. FTC PAC has branded itself to prospective donors as the group that can do what O'Rourke cannot — or has chosen not to do — which is go negative against Cruz.
Still, FTC PAC's funds are limited compared to the millions that have been pouring in to prop up Cruz. FTC PAC has raised about $278,000, a fraction of the more than $4 million that has been dumped into the main pro-Cruz super PAC, Texans Are, according to Federal Election Commission records going through August.
In addition to attack ads, O'Rourke has made clear he does not want the help of PACs in the race. Neither Cruz nor O'Rourke, however, has formal control over the activities of a super PAC like FTC PAC, which can raise unlimited amounts of money to influence the election as long as it does not coordinate with campaigns.
Disclosure: Richard Linklater has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.