Update: Reid PAC hits Brown in response to ‘ridiculous’ GOP charge about TV ad

(TUESDAY, APRIL 29 UPDATE:)

CONCORD — The Senate Majority PAC is labeling as “ridiculous” GOP allegations that it took a cue from  Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign for a television ad currently airing in New Hampshire – and it is focusing its response on Senate candidate Scott Brown.

Ty Matsdorf, campaigns and communications director for the PAC, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, responded Tuesday afternoon to a complaint filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission by the state New Hampshire Republican Party, alleging that the Shaheen campaign and the PAC “illegally coordinated” prior to the release of the ad (see full story below).

Former Gov. John H. Sununu, a Brown supporter, then demanded that the ad be pulled pending an FEC investigation.

Matsdorf told the NHJournal in an email Tuesday afternoon:

“This is why Scott Brown lost in Massachusetts and why he’s going to lose in New Hampshire. Instead of defending his record or honestly answering questions, he throws out ridiculous charges to distract attention from his atrocious and out-of-touch record of standing up for special interests, no matter what state he’s running in.”

The Senate Majority PAC is spending $212,000 on the initial ad on broadcast television through May 8 and reportedly expanded the buy by an additional $110,000 for cable television.

 (Earlier updates follow)

(TUESDAY, APRIL, 29, UPDATE)

HAMPTON FALLS — As NHJournal.com reported Monday night, former Gov. John H. Sununu today entered the intensifying political battle over a Senate Majority PAC television ad the state GOP alleges is the product of an illegally coordinated effort between Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign and the SuperPAC.

Sununu, who has endorsed former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown for the U.S. Senate seat, called on Shaheen and Senate Majority PAC leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., to pull the PAC’s ad against Brown from the air while the Federal Election Commission investigates a complaint filed by the state Republican Party.

The Shaheen campaign has strongly denied the allegation by the Republican Party (see full story below).

In a statement released Tuesday, Sununu says:

“Serious questions have been raised about potential illegal coordination between Senator Harry Reid and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and now a federal investigation is pending. While the Federal Elections Commission investigation is ongoing, the people of New Hampshire should not be subjected to this kind of misrepresentation on the airwaves.

“Today I am calling on co-conspirators Harry Reid and Jeanne Shaheen to immediately take the potentially illegal ads off the air. Holding elected office is a matter of public trust, in this case, it appears the public trust has been violated. Until we know for sure what has happened, these ads must come down.”

But rather than pull its ad Senate Majority PAC is expanding its buy with with almost $110,000 in cable ads on behalf of Shaheen over the next two weeks, according to the Washington Post. The Post noted that’s in addition to the $200,000 or so the group is spending on broadcast ads through May 8.

Sununu is expected to go on the offensive about the ad,  in a similar way to his aggressive defense of Mitt Romney and criticism of President Barack Obama during  the 2012 presidential campaign.

(Our earlier report follows.)

CONCORD – The state Republican Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission Monday charging Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s campaign “illegally coordinated” with the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC by telegraphing a message similar to the one used in a new PAC television ad.

The NHGOP charged that by coordinating with the SuperPAC, headed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Shaheen campaign accepted an “illegal contribution” from the  SuperPAC. It asks for an investigation by the FEC.

The Shaheen campaign denied the allegations and said it was an attempt to distract from what it charged was evidence that Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown gave “phony answers about when he decided to run for the Senate.”

Brown said on Sunday that he and his wife decided that he would to run on Valentine’s Day – Feb. 14, 2014 – but Brown renewed a contributor contract with Fox News a few days later. It was not until a month later that Brown and Fox News parted ways.

The Democrats said the timing of Brown’s decision “raises potential legal questions.”

It said the disclosure during a television interview “suggests that he decided to run for office a full five days before he renewed his contract with Fox News and continued cashing in on his lucrative deal as a political pundit.”

Responding to the FEC complaint by the NHGOP, the state Democratic Party said, “On a day when Scott Brown was under fire for revealing he’d been giving phony answers about when he decided to run for Senate, it’s no surprise that Republicans are filing a phony complaint. It has no merit and is entirely false.

“The truth is Scott Brown has been under attack for years for coddling Big Oil and Wall Street and cashing in on those connections.”

Last week, there was widespread coverage in the political media of what the state and national GOP charged was a tactic designed to coordinate a potential advertising message between the Shaheen campaign and an outside third party group.

Campaigns and the third-party groups that support those campaigns are forbidden from coordinating their messages. But as the Washington Post put it, there have been “creative workarounds” and it called this one a “new level of brazenness.”

Early last week, the conservative  Americans for Prosperity group began airing another ad attacking Shaheen on Obamacare (this one reportedly involving an ad buy of $457,000,).

Last Wednesday, a new page on Shaheen’s campaign web site appeared that seemed to give talking points for a response that, as the Post put it, “oh-so-closely resembles a 30-second ad script.” The web page also linked to seven pages of background material and to “high resolution images” of flattering photographs of Shaheen talking to constituents.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in a Twitter post said, “Important Message for NH: Koch Brothers are trying to buy Scott Brown a Senate seat.” And it linked to the Shaheen campaign website message page, which said:

“More attack ads. Paid for by the Koch Brothers and their special interest money.

“More proof big oil, the Koch Brothers and Wall Street think they can buy our Senate seat for Scott Brown.

“When Brown was the Senator from Massachusetts he gave big oil and Wall Street billions in special breaks. They gave him millions in campaign contributions.

“Jeanne Shaheen voted to stop those special breaks.

“She’s leading the fight for a bipartisan bill to lower energy costs for consumers and create jobs.

“Jeanne Shaheen. Making a difference for New Hampshire.”

Friday, the Senate Majority PAC began airing an ad against Brown in a $212,000 buy. The ad did not copy the Shaheen script or use the images on the site, but it did include at least one identical research citation and carried a similar overall message.

The ad script says: “Scott Brown’s carrying some big oil baggage. In Massachusetts, he voted to give oil companies big tax breaks. They make record profits, he collects over $400,000 in campaign contributions.

The ad continues, “Now Brown’s shopping for a new Senate seat. In oil rich Texas? The oil fields of North Dakota? Nope, Brown wants to bring his big oil baggage to New Hampshire. Scott Brown: out for himself and big oil at our expense.”

Today, Bloomberg News reported that the Brown vote cited in the ad was also taken by vulnerable Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Begich of Alaska.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring last week cited examples in North Carolina, and Arkansas in which outside pro-Democratic groups aired ads shortly after the DSCC tweeted similar “important messages.”

“Does anyone believe that these are all coincidences?” asked Dayspring. “Of course not.”

The Shaheen campaign last week denied that the message page on its web site was an attempt to prompt a third party ad.

“That’s not the reason it’s on there,” spokesman Harrell Kirstein told the National Journal. “We’re making sure New Hampshire voters know the truth about Scott Brown’s record of voting to give big oil and Wall Street billions in special breaks.”

Today, the NHGOP chairman Jennifer Horn said, “Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s obvious and brazen attempt to coordinate with Senator Harry Reid’s outside money Super PAC raises very serious ethical and legal concerns that must be addressed.

“It is essential that the FEC thoroughly investigate Shaheen’s shady Super PAC coordination scheme to ensure public confidence in our election laws.”

The NHGOP said its complaint requests that the FEC review “all phone logs, emails and written documents that show communication between representatives of the Shaheen campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC. It also asks the FEC to investigate any direct communication between Senator Shaheen and Senator Reid about their coordinated outside money smear campaign.”

In the complaint, the NHGOP alleges, Shaheen for Senate and the DSCC “effectively communicated via their websites and social media material information and requests and suggestions for the SuperPAC, in a historically recognizable practice, to create an illegal coordinate communication, including the republication of campaign material. Communication via electronic means are communication nonetheless. There is not an exception for electronic communications under the FECA in the context of coordinated communications.”

Author: John DiStaso

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