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 PelosiHillicon Valley: State officials share tech privacy concerns with Sessions | Senator says election security bill won't pass before midterms | Instagram co-founders leave Facebook | Google chief to meet GOP lawmakers over bias claims Collins defends ad showing opponent speaking Korean against claims of bigotry Hoyer questions feasibility of new threshold for Speaker nomination 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 RyanHow the Trump tax law passed: Dealing with a health care hangover Dems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee 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 JordanFreedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign GOP divide in Congress over Rosenstein's future Kavanaugh is a 'huge step backwards,' says Dem congressional candidate 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 McCarthyGoogle CEO to meet privately with top Republican lawmakers 13 states accepted Sessions invitation to meeting on social media bias: report This week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos MORE (R-Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseFreedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign On The Money: Midterms to shake up House finance panel | Chamber chief says US not in trade war | Mulvaney moving CFPB unit out of DC | Conservatives frustrated over big spending bills Midterms to shake up top posts on House finance panel 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 CollinsCollins defends ad showing opponent speaking Korean against claims of bigotry The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify Indicted lawmaker angers GOP with decision to run for reelection 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 TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign 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: Are you (October) surprised? New Dem ad uses Paterno, KKK, affair allegations to tar GOP leaders 10 dark horse candidates for Speaker of the House 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.