DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Conservative fundraising group American Crossroads is filling in for Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Joni Ernst while she participates in Iowa National Guard training for two weeks.
Group spokesman Paul Lindsay told The Associated Press on Monday that the group backed by GOP strategist Karl Rove is spending $415,000 on a 30-second television ad that begins airing statewide Tuesday. That's in addition to the $3.1 million in advertising time the group has reserved in Iowa as part of the $20-million blitz the group plans in Senate battleground states.
Meanwhile, Ernst's opponent, four-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, promoted Monday an increase in the federal minimum wage as a way to increase funding for Social Security. Ernst opposes a federal minimum wage.
"Our campaign will continue talking about the issues at stake in this election," Braley spokesman Jeff Giertz said.
After three decades, Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is retiring after the November election, making Iowa among the top targets for Republicans, who need to gain six Senate seats to assume control of the chamber.
Ernst's campaign will air an ad during her two weeks at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin, but she won't publicly campaign during that time, aides said.
Enter American Crossroads, which is a super PAC unaffiliated with Ernst's campaign and not bound by federal laws limiting contributions, though it is required to disclose its donors.
The ad mentions Braley's critique of Republican Sen. Charles Grassley's qualifications to be Senate Judiciary Chairman and Braley's support of the health care law. The ad calls Ernst, a state senator, "a better choice."
"We added it to fill the time when she was off the campaign trail," Lindsay said.
The super PAC's spending is its first in Iowa this year as well as the group's first ad buy by the group this year in a state that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, carried in 2012. The group also has spent money on advertising supporting U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, the Republican challenging incumbent Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, and also ads in Republican primary races in Alaska and North Carolina.
In Braley's corner, Sierra Club Political Committee reported spending roughly $200,000 in ads opposing Ernst this week.