Saturday, May 26, 2018
Politics

Third-party groups spending millions to attack Bill Nelson

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is facing a growing threat in his re-election campaign — and it's not necessarily Republican rival U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.

It's the super PAC.

American Crossroads, a political action committee overseen by conservative strategist Karl Rove, said Wednesday it has reserved $6.2 million in air time this fall to link Nelson to President Barack Obama's agenda.

Nelson "has a long record that makes him vulnerable," said Crossroads spokesman Nate Hodson.

That follows a $1 million injection into a new super PAC supporting Mack. The money to Freedom PAC came from casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has already donated millions to super PACs supporting Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

And in Tampa this week, anti-Nelson TV ads began running from another newly formed group, American Commitment, a tax exempt advocacy group that is like a super PAC but does not have to disclose its donors.

The ad attacks Nelson for supporting the health care law and is steeped with distortions but underscores how outside groups have dramatically changed the way campaigns are waged. Republicans already control the House — thanks in part to a massive advantage in outside spending in 2010 — and need to win four net seats to take the Senate. Other Democrats are considered more vulnerable than Nelson, but the Republicans are spreading their odds.

Nelson added $1.8 million to his campaign coffers in the quarter that ended June 30 and now has nearly $11 million cash on hand, a formidable amount and far more than Mack, whom some Republicans worry is not strong enough to defeat the two-term Nelson.

Mack's campaign is way behind. It reported Wednesday raising about $839,000 for the quarter and has $1.3 million cash on hand. But the third-party money levels the advantage and ensures Nelson will be pummelled with ads leading up to the Nov. 6 election. Polling already suggests he's been hurt.

Other groups, including Americans for Prosperity, 60 Plus Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have already financed ads against Nelson. The ads mostly focus on Nelson's support of Obama's major policies, including the stimulus and health care.

All told, more than $14 million has been spent or reserved in air time, including the new American Crossroads $6.2 million, according to media tracking figures confirmed by Nelson's campaign.

Crossroads has emerged as one of the most aggressive super PACs to proliferate after a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision ended restrictions on corporate and union spending in elections.

Along with a sister group Crossroads GPS, which is organized as an educational group under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code and is not required to disclose donors, Crossroads plans to spend $300 million on elections this year.

On top of the money against Nelson, the groups are on track to spend more than $24 million in Florida to oppose Obama or his policies. To put it in perspective, that's more than the $20 million Charlie Crist raised for his 2006 gubernatorial election.

Money has come from corporate interests and wealthy donors such as David and Charles Koch, billionaire industrialists who fund Americans for Prosperity. An AFP ad against Nelson in June cast him as a big spending liberal with failed results.

Adelson, the casino magnate, is another major donor to super PACs and almost single handily kept Gingrich competitive in the Republican presidential primaries, leveling some of the hardest-hitting attacks on Romney's business record.

Adelson, who is now donating in support of Romney, was seen meeting in New York in June with one of Mack's top advisers, Arthur Finkelstein, about plans to fund committees to win control of the Senate, according to a report in POLITICO. Coordination between super PACs and candidates is illegal and Mack's team has denied any connection.

Freedom PAC also pulled in $50,000 from The Villages, the large retirement community in Central Florida owned by conservative Gary Morse. If Morse had given directly to Mack, he would be limited to $2,500 each for the primary and general election.

Democrats and Obama have decried the rise of super PACs and "social welfare" groups such as Crossroads GPS, but have formed their own in an attempt to stay afloat. Priorities USA Action, started by a former Obama aide, on Wednesday launched a new Spanish-language ad in Florida that criticizes Romney.

Still, Democratic groups have not raised nearly much as conservative-aligned ones.

"Connie Mack IV is a seriously flawed candidate," said Nelson's deputy campaign manager, Marley Wilkes. "But Bill Nelson isn't being challenged by Connie Mack IV. He's under attack by a handful of billionaires operating in secret. And they don't care about Florida. For them, it's all about protecting their own self-interest in Washington."

Nelson declined to be interviewed but has responded similarly with fundraising appeals, bemoaning "shadowy right-wing front groups" of funneling corporate money into political races.

"We can stop them from buying this election — but I need your help to do it," Nelson wrote in a recent email.

Hodson, the Crossroads spokesman, said Nelson's record speaks for itself.

"All Crossroads (or other outside groups for that matter) can do is make the case to Floridians that Bill Nelson's record is out-of-touch with his constituents," he said. "What we cannot do is make up the votes Nelson took, which are far to the left of the state he represents. Bill Nelson is vulnerable because of his out-of-touch voting record in Washington."

The onslaught appears to be taking a toll. A Rasmussen poll released Wednesday had Mack leading Nelson by 9 percentage points. In an April, Rasmussen poll, Nelson held an 11-point lead.

"The only poll that counts is on Election Day," replied Wilkes.

Alex Leary can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @learyreports.

Comments
Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

I may have cracked the code. Found a way to sell doing the right thing. Discovered a method of persuasion in certain matters of fairness, conscience and the greater good.Like giving our fellow Americans a second chance.When morality-based arguments d...
Published: 05/26/18
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18