By Jonathan Easley - 05/29/13 01:53 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) unveiled a new campaign ad Wednesday, blasting the White House over the IRS scandal and likening President Obama to Richard Nixon.
The ad includes footage of IRS tax official Lois Lerner pleading the Fifth amendment during a congressional hearing on the agency’s targeting of conservative political groups and accuses the Obama administration of a “culture of intimidation.”
The video cuts from clips of Lerner and other IRS officials either defending or claiming ignorance of the agency’s actions to a clip of Nixon saying, “if the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
The video closes with the words “Intimidation, Retaliation, Secretive” unfurling on the screen over audio of Obama saying: “We’re going to punish our enemies, and we’re going to reward our friends.”
McConnell’s ad is his first to seize on the scandal over the IRS’s use of higher scrutiny for Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status. Conservatives have argued the practice is an example of big government operating without restraint.
Lawmakers have launched probes to uncover when senior officials at Treasury and the White House first learned about the scandal.
The White House disclosure that counsel Kathryn Ruemmler was aware of an inspector general audit detailing the targeting in April but did not notify Obama has led some Republicans to suggest that officials sought to shield him from the political fallout.
McConnell does not yet have a Democratic opponent in his 2014 reelection efforts, but polls suggest the GOP Senate leader is vulnerable.
A survey from Democratic firm Public Policy Polling (PPP) last month showed him leading possible challengers, including Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and former Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.), by only single digits.