Political News

Two GOP-leaning groups spending $5 million in ads

Posted September 9, 2010 5:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 10, 2010 3:49 p.m. EDT

— More than a dozen Democratic members of the House, including three in North Carolina, are facing a wave of negative ads by two conservative, Republican-allied groups that plan to spend more than $5 million on advertising.

Americans for Job Security and The 60 Plus Association will begin running commercials Monday calling for the defeat of Democrats in House races in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina and Indiana. The ads are a test of the new campaign speech laws liberalized by the Supreme Court.

AJS is targeting North Carolina Democrats Bob Etheridge, Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler. The group says it will spend about $1.4 million on anti-Etheridge and anti-Kissell ads.

Etheridge campaign spokesman Mike Davis said the ads are only meant to hide the record of Republican challenger Renee Elmers.

“AJS is nothing but a Washington, D.C.-based, shadowy front group funded by big corporate special interests and run by partisan hacks doing the dirty work for their candidates. Bob Etheridge is working hard to create jobs for working people," Davis said in a statement. "North Carolina families are still dealing with the devastation of failed economic policies of the past but that is exactly where our opponent and her Washington special interest allies want to return."

KIssell spokesman Christopher Schuler said the group doesn't represent local businesses.

"North Carolina businesses know where Congressman Kissell stands, with them and those that work for them," Schuler said in a statement.

The two groups are part of a series of GOP-leaning outside organizations that are pouring money into this year’s elections in hope of wresting congressional control from the Democrats. The ads, which label the Democrats as too liberal for their districts, take aim at some of the most competitive races in the country and represent an escalation in spending that is already breaking records.

Americans for Job Security and The 60 Plus Association are nonprofit corporations that do not have to disclose their donors. Americans for Job Security advocates a pro-business, lower taxes agenda. The 60 Plus Association bills itself as a conservative alternative to the AARP seniors’ lobby. Last year it targeted a number of House Democrats who voted for health care legislation.

Freed by a Supreme Court decision earlier this year, the groups are specifically calling for the Democrats’ defeat. Before the ruling, such groups had to couch their ad language as “issue ads” and had to beware of running up against Federal Election Commission rules.

But the FEC has not adopted new rules to complement the court’s January decision, which permitted corporations and unions to engage more directly in electoral politics. As a result, groups are beginning to test the new environment.

Congress tried to pass legislation this year requiring groups that air political ads to reveal the source of their money. But the bill has stalled in the Senate.

The 60 Plus Association, whose national spokesman is singer Pat Boone, is spending more than $4 million against nine House Democrats: Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords; Florida’s Allen Boyd, Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson; Pennsylvania’s Kathy Dahlkemper and Paul Kanjorski; Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, and Ohio’s John Boccieri. It also is airing an ad against Tennessee’s Roy Herron, a Democrat seeking to fill an open seat.

Americans for Job Security, led by a former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, is spending more than $1.5 million. Its other targets are Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, Ohio’s Zach Space and the district of Indiana’s Brad Ellsworth, who is running for the Senate. It also is airing an ad against Democrat Bryan Lentz, who is seeking an open seat in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The ads will air for four weeks.