LITTLE ROCK — A television ad by the Republican Governors Association that claims Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross received a "sweetheart deal" on the 2007 sale of his family pharmacy is "false and defamatory," the website FactCheck.org has concluded.

LITTLE ROCK — A television ad by the Republican Governors Association that claims Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross received a "sweetheart deal" on the 2007 sale of his family pharmacy is "false and defamatory," the website FactCheck.org has concluded.


The ad quotes a "local appraiser" who said in 2009 that Ross sold the pharmacy in Prescott to the company of a campaign donor for $420,000 even though "you can buy half the town for $420,000." The ad also says there was "a call for a Justice Department investigation" and states that "some things shouldn’t be for sale," apparently insinuating that Ross is for sale.


FactCheck.org, a website run by the nonprofit Annenberg Policy Center, said in a report posted Wednesday that the appraiser quoted in the ad, Adam Guthrie Jr., valued Ross’ pharmacy as $198,500, or less than half of the amount Ross received for it, but the appraisal failed to take into account the cost of the building or the pharmacy’s record of producing income.


The state Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board found the appraisal to be in error and was moving to sanction Guthrie over it in 2010 when he decided instead to surrender his license and cease practicing as an appraiser, the website said.


A message left Thursday at a phone number listed for Adam Guthrie of Prescott was not immediately returned.


The website also said a citizens’ group did send a letter to the Justice Department calling for an investigation of the sale, but the department apparently did not pursue the matter.


The bipartisan House Ethics Committee did investigate, but it cleared Ross of any wrongdoing. Democratic Chairman Zoe Lofgren of California and ranking Republican member Jo Bonner of Alabama said the pharmacy sold at fair market value.


‘We find the ad to be false and defamatory," FactCheck.org said.


RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said Thursday the association stands by the ad.


"Congressman Ross might think his close pals like the liberal Democrat chair of the congressional Ethics Committee are the last word in Arkansas, but they’re not. Voters know Congressman Ross is unfit to be governor of Arkansas, and the selling of his pharmacy to a campaign donor for a sweetheart deal proves it," he said.


Ross issued a statement late Wednesday calling on his Republican opponent, Asa Hutchinson, to denounce the ad.


"It says a lot about Congressman Asa Hutchinson’s character and trustworthiness that he will campaign alongside the leader of a group who is smearing my wife and me with accusations FactCheck.org has found to be ‘false and defamatory,’" Ross said. "Based on this new independent analysis, I once again call on Congressman Hutchinson to join me in asking the RGA to immediately pull this slanderous ad from the airwaves and apologize."


Hutchinson said in a statement Thursday that he has been trying to run a positive campaign and has no more control over the RGA than Ross has over the Democratic Governors Association. FactCheck.org said in June that a DGA ad accusing Hutchinson of wasting taxpayer money on employee bonuses and a lavish party at the Department of Homeland Security was false.


"Mike needs to look at the attack ads that his DGA allies in D.C. have been running against me and my wife that have been called false," Hutchinson said. "Did he call for those to be taken down? No, he did not and has not. Voters don’t like negative ads, but they don’t like hypocrisy either."