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Dark money group takes aim at potential Obama appointee Chuck Hagel

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Sen. Chuck HagelA committee that spent more than $300,000 in dark money to defeat President Barack Obama this year is now spending more to offer advice on whom he should appoint to his cabinet.

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel, seen at right, hasn't run for office in a decade, but he now is the target of a negative TV ad, thanks to widespread reports that the president is poised to nominate him as a replacement for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who has signalled that he wants to retire at the end of Obama's first term.

MORE: Hagel alumni in defense industry

Political Ad Hawk, a Sunlight mobile app hat allows voters to obtain information about the sources of funding behind political advertising, on Wednesday picked up this TV-ready ad by the Emergency Committee for Israel, which criticized Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran, as soft on Iran. The group was founded by to prominent conservative pundit William Kristol, who has been making the same arguments in the Weekly Standard, which he edits. The Washington Post editorial board has joined the criticism, while Hagel's defenders argue that his combat experience make him the perfect choice to head the Pentagon.

The Kristol group did not return Sunlight's queries about the ad buy but Politico reports the ad will begin airing today on Washington stations. That would reach members of the Senate, who would have to confirm Hagel's appointment to the Cabinet if Obama nominates their former colleague.

This year, the Emergency Committee for Israel made nearly $372,000 in independent expenditures designed to block Obama from winning a second term, according to data available on Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money. The committee has a super PAC, but it made no significant expenditures this campaign cycle. Most of the spending appears to have come through a non-profit that will not have to disclose donors publicly.

Records on Sunlight's Political Ad Sleuth, which compiles television political advertising records from major markets that the Federal Communications Commission posts online, show that the Emergency Committee for Israel was active in a number of battleground states and in TV markets with large Jewish populations.

The group also spent in a number of congressional races, with its only victories in the cycle coming in Massachusetts, where it opposed Democratic Rep. John Tierney, under a cloud because of a criminal investigation of his family members, and in a special House election in New York, where it supported winning Republican Bob Turner.  You can view the Emergency Committee's advertising here.