In the months leading up to the 2010 midterms, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce effectively served as an appendage to the Republican attack machine. The Chamber’s anti-Democratic ad campaign included plenty of claims that are “demonstrable distortions or have been repeatedly debunked as false by independent fact-checkers.”

For the 2012 cycle, the Chamber has been reduced to photo manipulation.

Apparently Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) usual tousled hair just wasn’t scruffy-looking enough for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who recently launched an attack ad against him.

Ohio Democrats are crying foul over the ad, which includes a grainy photo of a disheveled Brown, with a growth of stubbly beard. There’s just one problem: While Brown’s messy hair is certainly recognizable, he is not known to go out in public unshaven.

Here’s a side-by-side comparison; the Chamber’s touched-up image is on the left.

I’m not even sure why the business lobbying group would bother pulling a stupid stunt like this. By adding stubble to the senator’s face, I guess voters are supposed to think Brown is disheveled? (“Vote Republican; they’re not scruffy looking”?)

Also note, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn’t even denying having manipulated the image.

If the group has been reduced to sleazy tactics like these 11 months before Election Day, I shudder to think how loathsome its efforts will be by, say, September.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.