A dark-money group aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer helped pay for deceptive ads aimed at depressing Republican general election turnout in 2018, newly released records show.
Why it matters: These contests were decided more than two years ago, but the details show how partisan operatives exploited gaps in campaign finance laws to attack their rivals while obscuring their true motives — tactics both sides may adopt in next year’s pivotal midterms.
Republicans Josh Hawley and Mike Braun, now U.S. senators, were among those targeted. So were then-Sen. Dean Heller and now-Rep. Matt Rosendale, who lost their races.
Details: Majority Forward is the nonprofit arm of Senate Majority PAC, a high-dollar super PAC affiliated with Senate Democrats. Newly released tax records show that Majority Forward gave nearly $2.7 million in 2018 to another nonprofit called the Coalition for a Safe and Secure America (CSSA).
That was the majority of the $4 million CSSA raised that year….
Background: CSSA’s ads ran on a handful of state-specific Facebook pages. They hit those Republican candidates from the right, accusing them of caving on issues central to the conservative political brand.
Nevada’s Heller “allowed almost 200,000 foreign workers a backdoor entry into our country,” one ad declared.
Missouri’s Hawley, the group charged, “sides with Washington liberals against gun owners.”
“Tax-hike-Mike Braun,” is what the group dubbed the former Indiana state representative.
Rosendale, then a GOP candidate for Senate in Montana, “supports drone monitoring,” the ads in that race claimed.
Between the lines: These attacks came not during GOP primaries, but within weeks of the 2018 general election, asDemocrats explored ways to drive a wedge between Republican candidates and their most ideologically committed voters.
The timing suggests CSSA was seeking to depress GOP election day turnout or push Republicans to support third parties (some of the group’s ads promoted Libertarian Party candidates).