Leadership-allied group's ads thank GOP lawmakers

AP News
Posted: Mar 06, 2015 2:43 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A political group that backs House Republican leaders started running television and online ads Friday to thank GOP lawmakers who voted this week for a bill funding the Homeland Security Department.

The $525,000 campaign by the American Action Network is the second round of advertising this week aimed at House Republicans on the issue. On Tuesday, they took the unusual step of airing commercials that pressed some recalcitrant GOP lawmakers to back the bill.

The bulk of the latest effort is being spent on broadcast TV ads praising four House Republicans: Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, Susan Brooks and Todd Young of Indiana and Dan Benishek of Michigan.

"Worried about America's safety and where our economy is headed?" the narrator asks in ads that differ only in the lawmaker being thanked. "Can the damage done by Washington liberals be reversed? It starts with conservative champions like Congresswoman Susan Brooks."

The group is also running online ads in 16 other districts. Live operators are calling voters in the districts of all 75 House Republicans who backed the bill to ask them to thank their representatives as well.

This week's ads seem to be a carrot-and-stick effort by the GOP establishment to reward Republicans who back House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House leaders and punish those who don't.

Many House Republicans represent districts that their party is all but certain to win in the 2016 general elections. For many of these incumbents, their gravest threat is from a more conservative primary challenger.

That's why there is value in the network's effort, such as its online ads that show pictures of each lawmaker, label them "conservative champions" and urge people to thank them "for fighting for a safer, stronger America."

The House gave final congressional approval to the Homeland measure Tuesday.

That came after Republican leaders surrendered to Democrats and dropped language blocking President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. Most House Republicans — 167 of them — opposed the legislation.

Signaling continuing hostilities between some of the House's more conservative members and GOP leaders, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said the network's ads targeting him and other Republicans earlier this week for opposing the Homeland Security bill were "a colossal failure." He said Friday he'd received just one negative phone call from constituents.

The ads suggested those lawmakers would "put our security at risk by jeopardizing critical security funding." Huelskamp labeled the network "pro-amnesty" for immigrants and pointedly noted that the final Homeland Security bill was backed by only a third of Republicans but all voting House Democrats including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., a favorite GOP target.

The network is headed by former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and its top officials include several former GOP lawmakers, congressional aides and party officials. It is a tax-exempt organization that is allowed to conduct political activity, as long as politics is not its primary purpose.