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Patriot Majority Wades Into House Races

Patriot Majority, an independent progressive organization, will run a "multi-million dollar" television campaign against Republican congressmen and senators in the coming months -- an effort that begins today in Michigan's 7th district.

Craig Varoga, who managed former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's failed presidential bid earlier this cycle and is the president of Patriot Majority, called the ad against Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) the "first wave" of television ads that would be "airing ... over an extended period of time."

The group's first foray into the 2008 campaign, which is entirely funded by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, comes in the southern Michigan seat that Walberg, a conservative former state representative, won in 2006 by ousting Rep. Joe Schwarz in the Republican primary. Walberg faces a stiff challenge in the fall from highly regarded state Sen. Mark Schauer (D).

The ad, which you can watch below, attacks Walberg for voting against the reauthorization of Head Start -- the only member of the House Education and Labor Committee to do so.

"More than 2,000 children in our part of Michigan get a head start education every year," says the narrator of the ad, before noting that Walberg was the only member of the 43-person panel to vote against the reauthorization. "Tell Tim Walberg to stop voting against Michigan's future," the narrator says at the ad's conclusion.

Patriot Majority has dabbled in elective politics in the recent past, having run ads against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) in 2007, and ads in support of Gov. Deval Patrick's (Mass.) successful candidacy in 2006. The group is a 527 group, meaning it can accept unlimited donations but has to report what it raises and spends to the Internal Revenue Service.

Paul Booth, executive assistant to AFSCME President Gerry McEntee, explained that the group had decided to wade into congressional races "because we know Congress has to play an important role in making change happen."

AFSCME has already shown its willingness to put its money where its mouth is, co-funding (along with the controversial "Alex" ad that hammered John McCain on the Iraq war.

Varoga said the group would expand its fundraising efforts beyond AFSCME but added that the project, which is slated to include House and Senate candidates, is already fully funded.

If Varoga's claim is born out, Patriot Majority could well fill serve as a counterweight to Freedom's Watch -- the conservative-aligned group with plans to play heavily in targeted House and Senate races.

Time will tell whether either group will be a major force in the coming congressional election. Recent history suggests that major donors tend to shy away from involving themselves in House and Senate races but with so little outside activity at the presidential level -- one of the truly stunning developments of this election -- the money men (and women) could move their attention to Congress.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 23, 2008; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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These groups just contribute to the partisan nature and rancor. They are not grassroots and only succeed and further alienating voters. This is why the Modern Whig Party has so much potential in the longterm. It was started by military veterans and now counts 7,000 active participants with military credentials (including many who are deployed, retired high-ranking officers, etc). The group is moving slowly and deliberately with an eye toward the 2010 Congressional cycle in a tru grassroots fashion that has not occurred in years. The Modern Whigs have an innovative, bold and novel plan to run members initially as Dems and Republicans based on their middle-of-the-road ideals and common-sense approach.
The Modern Whig Party - For the rest of us

Posted by: Modern Whig | July 23, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

the word is liberal, not progressive.

Posted by: Karen | July 23, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Catawba: Yes, these ads are supposed to help AFSCME's members. Not only do the children of many AFSCME members attend Head Start, but AFSCME represents more Head Start employees than any other union. Quite a few of AFSCME's members depend on Head Start funding for their livelihood. If I were one of those members, I would hope that AFSCME felt obligated to weigh in on my behalf.

Posted by: Z75 | July 23, 2008 2:26 PM | Report abuse

McCain is losing it. He called Obama a genocide flipflopper the day Obama visited a Holocaust memorial. Beyond disgusting.

Low and crude.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 23, 2008 2:06 PM | Report abuse

AFSCME's funding of partisan TV spots is supposed to help its members? It makes me more and more disinclined to support them on the pay and pension issues that will be coming to the forefront over the next 4 years.

Posted by: Catawba | July 23, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow...42 to 1, that what the republicans see in this new election...the RNC will be no more, and the only jobs that they will have any qualification for are Airport Bathroom Attendants....the smell is the same at the RNC but the pay is really..**itty....

Where is Karl Rove when you need him

Posted by: AlexP1 | July 23, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

42 to 1, thats what the vote count will be for the 2008 election, so good luch RNC, the only jobs you thieves will have left are bathroom porters in airports...the smell is the same at the RNC put the pay is s***......

Posted by: AlexP1 | July 23, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Chris: Please get us some details on why McCain canceled his press conference today. I wonder if it was because he was reluctant to answer questions about his botched attempt to claim that the "surge" happened BEFORE the Sunni Awakening. McCain was caught out in a pretty big lie yesterday and probably doesn't want to have to explain it.

Also McCain gave his lowest and ugliest performance yesterday in attacking the patriotism of Obama. I bet he did not want to answer questions about that either.

Thanks for looking into this for us.

Posted by: dee | July 23, 2008 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Go get 'em! Republican knee-jerk support of the criminal activities of the bush Administration should disqualify them from serving in Congress..remember the oath to support the Constitution. Throw the incompetent ideologues out!

Posted by: thebob.bob | July 23, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

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