National Democrats are beginning to spend their midterm war chest on ads that highlight what they are calling a “culture of corruption” in Republican-controlled Washington, in a sign that they believe those issues are going to move voters.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC, the top Democratic super PAC engaged in House races, had focused virtually all of their national messaging on health care and economic fairness in a belief that voters are most interested in “kitchen table” issues.
But a spate of corruption allegations against Republican incumbents has started to affect individual House races — and, in turn, national Democrats' spending decisions.
On Friday, the DCCC will begin a $900,000 joint ad blitz with candidate David Shapiro, who is running against Rep. Vern Buchanan (R) in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. The spot highlights Buchanan’s purchase of a pricey yacht on the same day the House voted to pass a tax bill that benefited business owners such as him.
“Vern Buchanan and Washington Republicans have rigged the system for billionaires,” says the ad, which features photos of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alongside Buchanan. “Washington Republicans voted to give wealthy insiders like Vern Buchanan a tax handout of up to $2 million but raised taxes on seniors and families.”
Earlier this month, the DCCC started airing ads highlighting a petition-gathering scandal that has ensnared Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) and allegations of improper business dealings by GOP candidate Yvette Herrell while she served in the New Mexico state legislature.
On Thursday, the DCCC’s chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), rattled off those brewing scandals — as well as the criminal indictments of Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) — as an inflection point.
“This will be something that will be talked about and that we’ll make sure that we bring to the [voters'] attention — especially to the voters in each and every one of those districts where it’s directly personal to them because it’s their U.S. representative that has been involved,” he said.
National Democrats have entirely avoided airing any ads highlighting the many controversies that have enveloped President Trump personally. Luján said Thursday that that stance will continue.
“Our candidates don’t have to talk about him, because he’s going to talk about himself for us,” he said. “He’ll remind the American people of every investigation he’s involved with, of every disgusting tweet that is out there, of all the positions the Trump administration has taken.”
Democrats have accused Buchanan of taking out a loan to buy the yacht from a Canadian-owned bank that had lobbied on the tax bill. Buchanan’s campaign denies any improper dealings with the bank, calling the arrangement a standard purchase loan at the prevailing interest rate.
Max Goodman, a spokesman for Buchanan’s campaign, took aim at Shapiro and said the Democrat has ethical issues of his own, accusing him of wanting “to raise taxes even though he was delinquent paying his own” and investing in companies that manufacture firearms and that pollute while espousing pro-environment and anti-gun views. Buchanan’s campaign has already spent at least half a million dollars driving that message.
“This is part of a pattern of deceit and hypocrisy where Shapiro says one thing publicly yet privately does another,” Goodman said.
Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the DCCC’s GOP counterpart, said it was “rich” for the DCCC to “act as an authority on this subject,” making note of a House Ethics Committee investigation, since concluded without sanctions, of whether Luján engaged in improper politicking while participating in a 2017 sit-in protest on the House floor, as well as allegations, denied by Luján, that he was made aware of sexual harassment allegations against retiring congressman Ruben Kihuen (D-Nev.) long before Luján called on him to resign.