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NRCC ad hits 'phony Perriello' on lobbyist donations

Ben Pershing

Updated 1:15 p.m.
For several days, Rep. Tom Perriello (D) has been alone on the airwaves in Virginia's 5th congressional district, using his huge cash advantage over state Sen. Robert Hurt to pound the Republican nominee with negative ads. Now the National Republican Congressional Committee is firing back on Hurt's behalf, looking to turn one of Perriello's own ads against him.

Perriello has been running a commercial calling Hurt "lobbyists' best friend," featuring an actor playing a lobbyist who praises Hurt and laments that "this Perriello guy doesn't take lobbyist dollars." The NRCC's response ad essentially calls Perriello a liar:

After showing a clip from Perriello's ad, the NRCC narrator says, "Problem is, that script is completely false. Tom Perriello does take money from lobbyists -- $200,000 from groups tied to lobbyists. ... And Perriello's taking personal checks from registered lobbyists too. Phony Tom Perriello: You can't believe a word he says."

The Daily Progress reported in March that Perriello had taken contributions from at least four donors who were registered as lobbyists. Perriello's campaign said it was unaware the donors were lobbyists and returned the money after being informed of the donations by the newspaper.

"Voters of the 5th district know that Robert Hurt's relationship with the truth is tangential at best, which is why his chief allies in Washington are desperately trying to launch a false character attack on Tom," Perriello spokeswoman Jessica Barba.

The "$200,000 from groups tied to lobbyists" charge is based on a calculation by the NRCC of donations Perriello has accepted in the last two cycles from the political action committees of organizations that employ lobbyists.

Republicans have pointed to the fact that Perriello is running negative ads relatively early in the cycle as evidence that the Democrat is scared and desperate to change the tide in a race he is losing. Multiple public polls have suggested that Hurt is ahead in the contest, though the margins have varied widely depending on the survey.

Democrats privately acknowledge that Perriello is one of their most endangered incumbents, but they believe that his big fundraising advantage can help him chip away at Hurt's support. And they argue that the NRCC's decision to run a direct response to Perriello's ad indicates that Republicans fear Perriello's commercials are having an impact on the race.

By Ben Pershing  |  September 13, 2010; 12:08 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Election 2010 , Robert Hurt , Tom Perriello  
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