Conservative groups air ads calling for defeat of candidates, test Supreme Court ruling

By Jim Kuhnhenn, AP
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Two GOP-leaning groups spending $5 million in ads

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

Beginning Thursday, Americans for Job Security and The 60 Plus Association are set to run commercials 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.

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 targets are Pennsylvania’s Jason Altmire, North Carolina’s Heath Shuler, 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.

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