The letter says that any station that continues to run the "false ads" are "subjecting themselves to legal jeopardy."
The ad in question calls Spence a "St. Louis banker" that helped run his bank "right into the ground with bad investments." The allegation goes along with a major attack by the Democrats against Spence throughout the gubernatorial campaign: That a bank whose board Spence sat on took TARP funds and hasn't paid them back.
It is the second ad by Nixon that calls Spence a banker and criticizes his association with TARP.
The letter, written by Kansas City attorney Edward Greim, said Spence joined the bank's board of directors "only after it had voted to accept TARP funds and only after the investments had been made that necessitated the bank taking TARP funds."
It goes on to question another claim in the ad, that Spence "got an insider loan from his own bank to buy himself a vacation home. A million dollar mansion."
"This is false and defamatory. Mr. Spence did take out a loan, but it was not an 'insider loan' and had nothing to do with TARP payments being delayed," Greim's letter says.
Spence is the former CEO of Alpha Packaging, a St. Louis area plastics maker he bought in 1985. He joined the board of Reliance Bank in May 2005. The bank's holding company -- Reliance Bancshares -- received $40 million from the U.S. Treasury under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP, in February 2009.
Spence joined the board of the holding company in May 2009, two months after the decision was made to accept TARP funds. In 2010, he took out a $1.1 million mortgage on a vacation home at the Lake of the Ozarks.
Before resigning from the board in March 2011, Spence voted with the rest of the board to stop paying back the TARP loan.
"Jay Nixon is lying about me and about his record as governor,” Spence said in a statement. “Nixon knows I’m not a St. Louis banker, I don’t own a bank and I didn’t take TARP funds to buy a house."
Oren Shur, Nixon's campaign manager, said Spence is "down in the polls and running out of time, so he’s beginning to panic and resort to desperate measures."
“Instead of threatening television stations with lawsuits, Spence would be better advised to simply explain why, after his bank took a $40 million bailout, he felt there was money for his million-dollar insider loan but not money to repay the taxpayers," Shur said in a statement.
In a letter of its own to TV stations across the state, the Nixon campaign went through the individual claims in the ad, concluding that it is accurate and should not be taken off the air.
"We respectfully request that you disregard the Spence campaign’s desperate attempt for you to act as its censor," the letter said.
St. Louis Public Radio is reporting that the letters went out to 20 stations. Only one has responded so far, and only to ask for more evidence that the ads were false.