RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
There is a spirited back and forth going on between two Republican presidential candidates - Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. A Super PAC called Restore Our Future is running negative ads on Romney's behalf.
KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Super PACs are independent groups. They can raise unlimited amounts of money to back issues and candidates. Gingrich has called on Romney to get the ads off the air. So far it's a standoff, as NPR's Kathy Lohr reports.
Romney responded to Gingrich's call to condemn the ads. On MSNBC, the former Massachusetts governor said the law does not allow him to communicate with a Super PAC.
MITT ROMNEY: If we coordinate in any way, whatsoever, we go to the big house.
LOHR: Romney also criticized restrictions in the campaign finance laws that led to the creation of Super PACS. And he suggested getting rid of limits on contributions to the candidates themselves.
ROMNEY: Campaign finance law has made a mockery of our political campaign season. We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these Super PACS.
LOHR: That seems disingenuous to those who see Romney benefiting from the heavily financed Restore Our Future Super PAC. In Iowa yesterday, Gingrich disputed Romney's claim that he can't communicate with his former staffers who run the Super PAC. Gingrich called that baloney.
NEWT GINGRICH: We ought to understand that these are his people running his ads, doing his dirty work while he pretends to be above it.
LOHR: Gingrich says if the Super PAC that supports him runs negative ads, the former speaker vows to renounce it. At every campaign stop in Iowa this week, including this one in Oskaloosa yesterday, Gingrich continued to demand that Romney stop the negative barrage.
GINGRICH: Either you stand behind those ads and you tell people that you're proud of being negative or you get 'em off the air. I don't care if they spend $1.4 million in positive ads because I don't think they do him all that much good. But I think $1.4 million in negative ads is really, frankly disgusting.
LOHR: There are signs that the negative ads may be working here as Gingrich's poll numbers have dropped over the past few weeks and there's no indication that the ads are going away.
Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Des Moines.
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