McConnell fires back in early campaign air wars


On the defensive and trying to wade off a Tea Party challenge, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has hit the airwaves with ads 20 months before Election Day.

His campaign is dropping at least $21,000 to run its first ads of the 2014 campaign, in the Louisville TV market over the next week during the Today Show, the nightly news, Dancing with the Stars and Americas Funniest Home videos, new ad buys disclosed on Political Ad Sleuth show. The Associated Press quoted a McConnell's spokesman as saying the total ad buy will run into six figures. (Only network affiliates in the nation's top 50 markets are required to post political ad buys online). 

The McConnell ad seizes on a racially-charged Tweet by a Kentucky Democratic group trying to unseat McConnell that targeted the senator's wife (and former Department of Labor secretary) Elaine Chao. The group apologized after coming under intense criticism.

McConnell has over $7 million in the bank, but has been active on the fundraising circuit, holding an event as recently as this week in Washington. The ticket price ran up to $5,000

McConnell is the top target for Democrats next year and his early ad blitz comes in response to a flurry of negative ads that have already aired against him.  Among the anti-McConnell advertisers:

  • Progressive Change Committee, a Washington-based political action committee that must abide by traditional campaign finance limits of $5,000 per donor. The PCCC has spent $100,000 on two TV ads on broadcast and cable networks in Kentucky and on cable in Washington, D.C. since early February, according to spokesman Matt Wall. The PCCC, which raises most of its money from donations of under $200, had $216,199 in the bank at the end of the year, its last filing with the Federal Election Commission. 
  • Labor groups have gone national with criticism of McConnell , with a six-figure online and TV buy in seven major markets, including Washington and Los Angeles — both sources of major Democratic donations. The ads blame McConnell for the budget sequester.
  • Planned Parenthood has also stepped in the the fray, hitting him for his opposition of the mandatory coverage of birth control in employer-sponsored health plans. The group bought at least $12,000 worth of ads in the Louisville market in late February, according to Ad Sleuth.

After the initial Progressive Change Committee ads, the Republican-allied super PAC American Crossroads, which is led by former McConnell aide Steven Law, made a $10,000 ad buy targeting actress Ashley Judd, a Democrat who is considering a run for McConnell's seat. The ad attacked Judd as a carpetbagger. She lives in Tennessee.