New Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders

Escalating its anti-corruption message, a top Democratic super PAC on Friday launched a blistering web ad designed to portray House Republicans as irredeemably unethical ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

The 30-second ad, sponsored by the House Majority PAC, which has close ties to Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDonald Trump proved himself by winning fight for border security Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season MORE (D-Calif.), highlights a series of scandals — some of them decades old — surrounding a handful of prominent Republicans hoping to replace retiring Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanUnscripted Trump keeps audience guessing in Rose Garden Coulter defends Paul Ryan: This is 100 percent Trump's fault The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Trump escalates border fight with emergency declaration MORE (R-Wis.). The spot is certain to be controversial since some of the allegations remain unproven or under investigation.

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At one point, the narrator invokes allegations that Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanWhite House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration Rod Rosenstein’s final insult to Congress: Farewell time for reporters but not testimony House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (R-Ohio), who’s running for Speaker, failed to protect student athletes from a sexual predator when he was an Ohio State wrestling coach decades ago — a charge Jordan vehemently denies.

“Remind you of Joe Paterno?” the narrator says, referencing the legendary football coach who was accused of covering up a child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University.

The ad also targets Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCongress allows Violence Against Women Act to lapse Mandatory E-Verify: The other border wall Bret Stephens: Would love to see Hannity react when Dem declares climate change emergency MORE (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseOn unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Texas man with politician hit list, illegally 3D printed rifle sentenced to eight years The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? MORE (R-La.), two leading candidates to become the next Speaker.

The narrator knocks McCarthy for having “a lot of baggage,” as a 2015 headline — “Kevin McCarthy Quits Speaker Race Amid Allegations of Affair” — appears on the screen. McCarthy has denied any allegations of an affair.

Scalise, the narrator says, is “linked to KKK leader David Duke.” Scalise admitted to speaking to a white supremacist group in Louisiana in 2002, but has said he did not know the group’s ideology, apologized and made clear he rejects the organization’s beliefs.

House Majority PAC has spent “five figures” to run the ad online nationally, Democratic sources said.

“It’s clear Democrats are desperate to distract the American people from the fact they don’t have an agenda to address the real issues families are facing, and would rather spread dishonest attacks to try hiding their plans to abolish ICE and reverse the tax cuts that have been so successful at creating jobs," said Scalise spokeswoman Lauren Fine. "House Republicans will remain focused on creating jobs and rebuilding our economy so hardworking families have better opportunities to achieve the American Dream."

Spokespeople for McCarthy and Jordan did not respond to a request for comment.

The ad marks the latest, and most aggressive, effort by Democrats to portray the Republican Party as deeply corrupt and therefore unfit to lead Congress. The Democrats’ pared down midterm message features a vow to “clean up corruption,” and they’ve intensified that promise following last week’s arrest of Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsHouse Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Fighting AIDS domestically and globally means pushing more evidence-based services House Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 MORE (R-N.Y.), who’s been accused of insider trading.

A similar anti-corruption campaign had helped to propel the Democrats into power in 2006, in the aftermath of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Eyeing another House takeover in November, Democrats are hoping the message resonates with voters already put off by President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE and the many charges of corruption swirling around his administration.

The ad tries to tie the GOP’s potential future leaders — McCarthy, Scalise and Jordan — to the party’s controversial past GOP leaders. It mentions the unpopular government shutdown under former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) during the 1990s, Speaker-in-waiting Bob Livingston’s dramatic resignation on the Houe floor after he confessed to an extramarital affair, and former Speaker Dennis HastertJohn (Dennis) Dennis HastertFeehery: Lessons learned from John Dingell Feehery: Trump, like Apple, has smashed the status quo Feehery: Resistance for resistance’s sake is not a viable governing strategy MORE’s sexual abuse scandal.

“Republican leaders not looking out for you,” the ad says.

—Tal Axelrod and Melanie Zanona contributed to this story, which was last updated at 5:53 p.m.