Billionaire Tom Steyer is gearing up to engage in the Massachusetts Senate race yet again, a potentially pivotal development that Steyer and his aides hope will boost the Democratic nominee, Rep. Edward Markey, to a resounding win.
Steyer, a California billionaire and climate activist, spent $650,000 in attacks on Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) in the Democratic primary, despite the fact Markey remained the clear frontrunner in nearly every poll of the race. His attacks centered around Lynch's support for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Steyer opposes.
Lehane writes that the PAC plans to get involved in the general election through a field campaign engaged in micro-targeting Boston voters; paid media and online tools targeting persuadable voters and contributing to the get-out-the-vote effort; an effort focused specifically on faith voters; guerilla marketing and supporting any campaigns launched by Majority PAC, the main super-PAC working to elect Democrats to the Senate.
Majority PAC has not yet spent in the race, and there's no indication they have plans to do so, but after Gomez won the primary, the PAC issued a memo calling him "Mitt Romney Jr."
Lehane echoes that characterization in his memo to the campaign team, where writes that the committee has found Republican Gabriel Gomez to be "Romney Lite — More Conservative…Less Experience."
"When it comes to issues that the people of Massachusetts look at when they decide to vote, Gomez is in the mold of Mitt Romney – simply someone who will not fight for Massachusetts and who cannot be trusted," Lehane writes.
He cites Gomez's position against abortion rights, his opposition to some gun-control measures, his support for the Keystone XL pipeline and his position in favor of a proposal, backed by President Obama, that would cut Social Security benefits, as evidence of Gomez's conservatism.
Gomez's campaign strategist, Lenny Alcivar, said the attacks from Steyer were typical for Markey, whom he characterized as beholden to special interests.
"Here comes more mud from dirty Ed Markey and his special interest sugar daddies. After 37 years of taking money from special interest lobbyists, including those he regulates, its no surprise Congressman Markey is once again selling his services to the highest bidder," he said.
Andrew Zucker, Markey's press secretary, called Gomez's protests "laughable."
"For weeks, Gabriel Gomez refused to sign the People's Pledge to limit outside money in this election, so for him to feign outrage over any group's involvement in the campaign is laughable," Zucker said. "If Gabriel Gomez were serious about keeping outside money out of this race, he wouldn't go complaining to the press, he'd sign the People's Pledge."
Steyer's spending in the primary was controversial for Democrats, as both candidates signed a pledge to keep outside groups from investing in the race with air or web ads.
Steyer's group largely worked through loopholes in the pledge, however, by spending on canvassing efforts and attention-grabbing guerilla advertising campaigns, like dispatching protesters in hazmat suits to campaign stops to protest the oil industry.
To avoid the controversy he met initially, Steyer said he wouldn't engage in the race again unless asked by local activists. But an email from Craig Altemose, who heads a local climate advocacy group, urged him to spend in the race.
"Gabriel Gomez claims to agree that climate change is happening and humans are responsible, but offers no solutions to address it and instead supports continued investments in fossil fuels like the Keystone XL Pipeline that take our country in the wrong direction," Altemose writes.
"I strongly encourage you to dedicate resources to make sure that climate is on the ballot once again and that politicians learn there is a price to pay for prioritizing oil profits over the people and the planet."
Steyer previously told The Hill that he hopes to make climate change "the defining issue of our generation," and, through electoral involvement this cycle and beyond, promote Democratic support for environmental protections.
“The goal here is not to win. The goal here is to destroy these people. We want a smashing victory,” Steyer said of candidates he judges to be on the wrong side of the climate change debate.
And though Markey is favored to win in Massachusetts, Gomez has managed to keep his lead to single digits in nearly every poll of the race. After defending himself against criticism from Democrats surrounding a controversial tax deduction he took on his home in 2005, Gomez and Republicans are back on offense this week, hitting Markey on national security in hopes of driving up his negatives.
But Steyer has indicated he's willing to spend whatever it takes to achieve that "smashing victory," and Gomez could find himself on defense against Steyer's attacks very soon.
Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, tweeted that Steyer's involvement was an example of "more hypocrisy" on the part of Markey.
The congressman spent the first week of the general election hammering Gomez for refusing to sign the pledge to keep outside groups from spending in the race.
"Ed Markey has brought in an army of extremist radicals to disrupt voters," Dayspring tweeted.
Updated at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday.