In 2016, the only battleground state Senate Republican to falter in a re-election bid was New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte. She fell by the slimmest of margins -- losing by roughly 1,000 votes (0.2 percentage points) statewide. Conservative third party candidate Aaron Day ended up receiving more than 17,000 votes in the contest, tipping it to Democrat Maggie Hassan, who was also helped by a Libertarian candidate pulling in more than 12,000 ballots. The little-known Day's candidacy benefited from anonymous mailers sent to Republican voters designed to attack Ayotte "from the right." The liberal outfit behind the ads peddled their mischief in a profoundly dishonest, and even illegal, way:
At least three possibly illegal political mailers are being sent to voters around the state of New Hampshire in an effort to depress the vote for U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, on Nov. 8, 2016, by getting conservatives to cast ballots for Aaron Day, an independent in the race. The mailers – professionally designed and mailed from New Jersey – target Ayotte for saying that she wouldn't vote for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and claimed that she backs gun control legislation with Democrats in the Senate. The mailers include quotes from Trump criticizing Ayotte and a "NRA-ILA" logo that was sloppily pasted onto the graphic, making it look like it was paid for by the National Rifle Association. They also include positive comments about Day, a liberty Republican turned indie. The mailers state that Day "firmly opposes Obamacare" and was "a strong supporter of the (c)onstitution and the constitutional right to bear arms" – clearly attempting to sway voters to the conservative indie in an effort to boost the campaign of Hassan...The mailers did not include a return address, disclaimer, or acknowledgement of finance, which, even though it doesn't endorse any candidate, appears to be a violation of 52 U.S.C. 30120(a)(3), which requires acknowledgement of who or what paid for all political advertisement[s].
Republican strategist Liam Donovan provides some visuals to help remind us of what went down in the Granite State last cycle, and to expose how it appears as though the same shadowy, anonymous group is engaged in similar underhanded subterfuge this year:
Same firm behind illegal #MTSEN mailers was up to the same tricks boosting the independent last cycle against Ayotte. Race decided by <750 votes. Candidate got 17k. (h/t @RollinReisinger) https://t.co/RfcGg8DzXc— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) October 31, 2018
The Free Beacon has more on this year's versions of the same dirty tricks:
Two dark money mailers sent to thousands of voters without any disclosure of who paid for it—a likely illegal act—were sent by the same St. Louis printing company, which has been used by many Democratic campaigns in the state this cycle. The two mailers—the first one targeting Republican representative Ann Wagner and the second targeting Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley—both lack the standard disclosure statement identifying who paid for them, earning them quick criticism from state Republicans. The Wagner campaign immediately called the mailer targeting the congresswoman illegal and said it would be filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. The Missouri Republican Party similarly called the mailer targeting Hawley illegal and called on his opponent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), a frequent critic of dark money groups, to condemn the mailer...Dark money mailers like the ones targeting Wagner and Hawley have been a frequent target of McCaskill. State Republicans have called on her to denounce the mailer...McCaskill's campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Similar direct mailers without disclosures have been sent in recent days targeting Republican Senate candidates in Montana and Indiana, both considered to be hotly contested races.
Cross-party meddling and the pursuit of efforts to push ideological voters away from major party nominees isn't a novel concept in politics, but whoever is pushing these particular campaigns are likely skirting the law to avoid being identified. Republicans are absolutely justified in demanding a Federal Elections Commission probe. Who, exactly, is behind these anonymous mailers? Given the breadcrumbs about where these things were printed, it's fair to conclude that it's a Democrat-aligned "dark money" group. As I shared in another recent post, Indiana's Democratic Party is openly trying to push right-leaning voters away from Republican Senate nominee Mike Braun, casting him as a high-tax liberal in (legal) paid fliers:
In Montana, the libertarian candidate -- who stands to "benefit" from liberal mailers attacking Jon Tester's opponent "from the right" -- has dropped out of the race and endorsed Matt Rosendale:
Libertarian Rick Breckenridge bowed from the U.S. Senate race on Wednesday and threw his support behind Republican candidate Matt Rosendale, saying he was standing up against “dark money” in politics. Breckenridge said he was angry about a recent anonymous campaign mailer that said if Rosendale were elected, it would lead to more government surveillance and that voters should cast votes for Breckenridge instead...Breckenridge said he expected to get 3 percent to 4 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election, which includes Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester, and that his campaign has spent about $3,000. “I can’t compete with $50 million Madison Avenue campaign pieces,” he said. "I am here to support Matt and his candidacy,” Breckenridge, a surveyor, said during the news conference. “And to support him in the continuing effort to be the front man in the cause of liberty.” Rosendale thanked Breckenridge. "I am honored to have endorsement of Rick Breckenridge," he said. "I really appreciate him in joining me in (condemning) a dark money mailer that" he said was distributed by allies of Tester.
Breckenridge will remain on the ballot, however, which could marginally assist Tester. It's important for right-leaning voters who may be skeptical of Republicans to be aware of these machinations so they're not inadvertently manipulated by the Left.
UPDATE - More:
“The mailers fail to identify who paid for them, which is required by law.”— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 1, 2018
Illegal dark money Dem mailers attacking R’s “from the right” to save McCaskill, a supposed opponent of dark money. #MOSen https://t.co/M88zgC3GJj
The Daily Beast connects some additional dots:
That mail piece, and another one hitting Rosendale on trade policy, contain no “paid for by” disclaimers as required of any political committee sending such mailers. But they do list one key piece of information: the U.S. Postal Service code WC MLG 08899. The numbers are simply a ZIP Code—this one an area in Edison, New Jersey—but the preceding letters correspond to a specific sender. That doesn’t necessarily tell us who paid for the mailers, but it does suggest at the very least a common vendor with other recent mail pieces that have used the same code. In a memo released to reporters Wednesday, the Rosendale campaign identified the company Allied Printing Resources as its suspected culprit, citing its offices near Edison and its work with Democratic organizations this cycle and in the past—particularly the League of Conservation Voters, for which Allied produced direct-mail pieces backing Sen. Jon Tester’s 2012 re-election bid...Allied Printing didn’t respond to a request for comment. The company has worked this cycle with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List, a high-dollar super PAC supporting Democratic efforts to retake the Senate. Whoever is behind the mailers is attacking other Senate Republicans in competitive races in like fashion. Nearly identical mail pieces in other races are missing information about who is paying for their distribution.
Phil Kerpen also reminds us that Claire McCaskill used her allegedly ardent opposition to "dark money" as her excuse to oppose Justice Kavanaugh (and Gorsuch, by the way), yet here she is crossing her fingers that illegal dark money mailers will save her political skin by scaring conservative voters away from her Republican opponent.
UPDATE II - Apparent straight-up voter suppression by North Dakota Democrats:
Kind of a big North Dakota Senate story here, worth a read. Looks like the N.D. Democratic party has been funding a Facebook ad telling citizens they’ll risk losing their hunting licenses if they vote next week. https://t.co/XVkZQlUEox— Alexandra DeSanctis (@xan_desanctis) November 1, 2018