Soros-linked PAC targets Bass in ads
Group is focused on four U.S. races
A political action committee founded by the son of George Soros is targeting U.S. Rep. Charlie Bass and, starting today, will run attack ads questioning his relationship with oil companies.
Jonathan Soros, the son of liberal activist George Soros, formed Friends of Democracy in late April. The goal: to fight the "corrosive effect money is having on the political system," the group said yesterday in a press release.
Jonathan Soros is a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, where he is "exploring the emerging field of social investment and the ways in which it mobilizes for-profit organizations for the production of public goods," according to his biography on the group's site.
Friends of Democracy can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for advertising, provided it doesn't coordinate with a political campaign. And - because of newly revised federal regulations regarding how groups organize their money - it can also donate directly to campaigns, but within the limits set by law.
The group had about $145,200 on hand as of June 30, according to its disclosures with the Federal Election Commission, and intends to spend $700,000 on two weeks of advertising blasting Bass and three other Republicans in tight races.
Soros told the New York Times last month that he hopes to raise between $5 million and $8 million to run attack ads this cycle.
Co-founder David Donnelly said the group is "embracing the irony" that a group advocating against big money in politics is hoping to raise and spend big money getting candidates of their choice elected.
"The reality is that these issues won't be raised in the middle of elections unless people like us force the issue," he said.
The group will spend roughly a quarter of its pledged $700,000 on two weeks of anti-Bass ads that Donnelly said will run on cable, WMUR, Boston stations and in Portland, Maine.
"It's a very complicated district to buy," Donnelly said.
Their efforts will also include other media such as internet ads and direct mailings.
They declined to say how many television advertisements they bought. But because federal regulations let stations charge PACs higher rates than they do campaigns, outside groups such as Friends of Democracy often have to spend more money than candidates to saturate the market.
The group is targeting three other incumbents: Reps. Chip Cravaack of Minnesota, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and Dan Lungren of California. Like Bass, Cravaack and Lungren are both in tight re-election campaigns.
The group targeted candidates that didn't share its views on campaign finance reform and then crafted ads attacking the influence of varying industries on them, Donnelly said.
So, for example, they targeted what they said are compromising ties to the banking industry for one candidate and Bass's donations from "Big Oil."
The ads start the same for all four incumbents: A lobbyist and a congressman are watching a baseball game in an empty stadium.
Three people sit down, only to be told the seats are taken, as are the others they try to settle into.
"Do you feel frozen out like this when it comes to Congress? Corporate lobbyists have your congressman's full attention," the ad says.
"Your congressman, Charlie Bass, took over $166,000 from Big Oil and voted to give them billions in taxpayer subsidies. If we don't vote against Charlie Bass, middle-class families will never get in the game."
Scott Tranchemontagne, a Bass spokesman, called the ad hypocritical.
"The hypocrisy of this super-partisan, SuperPAC is astounding," he said. "They're running an ad against the influence of lobbyists and in doing so they are supporting a career lobbyist for congress in Ann McLane Kuster."
Kuster, a Hopkinton Democrat, earned $1.3 million in lobbying fees from 1989 to 2009, according to records filed with the state.
Kuster spokesman Rob Friedlander said that's nothing when compared with Bass's record.
"The fact is, Congressman Bass earned almost $600,000 from federal lobbying firms by trading on the connections he made as a U.S. congressman - a far cry from Annie, whose legal advocacy work was always here in New Hampshire on state issues like creating the Medication Bridge program for low-income seniors, and never in Washington," Friedlander wrote in a email to the Monitor. He cited Bass's federal disclosure forms for the $600,000 figure.
Tranchemontagne defended Bass's record on campaign finance reform.
"A lot of people remember that Charlie, when he was in the New Hampshire state Senate, wrote one of the first campaign reform . . . spending limits law," Tranchemontagne said.
Donnelly said his group will also identify candidates who support campaign finance reforms that result in "citizen-led elections," lobbying reform, "transparency and disclosure."
"We're hoping that we work ourselves out of a job or that we become less influential over time, but we know it's going to take several election cycles," Donnelly said.
(Molly A.K. Connors can be reached at 369-3319 or email@example.com or on Twitter @MAKConnors.)