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 MoveOn.org) 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.
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