GOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads

A Republican group is calling on a contingent of GOP senators to ensure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE (R-Ky.) allows debate on bipartisan election security legislation. 

Republicans for the Rule of Law on Wednesday released a series of 30-second advertisements separately targeting Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Fla.), Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump fires back at Graham over Iran criticism Overnight Defense: GOP wary of action on Iran | Pence says US 'locked and loaded' to defend allies | Iran's leader rules out talks with US Republicans wary of US action on Iran MORE (R-S.C.) and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordDemocrats press for action on election security GOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Manufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank MORE (R-Okla.), co-sponsors of bills the group says will "help protect America’s elections."

The group also targets Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP group's ad calls on Graham to push for election security: 'Are you still trying?' Exclusive: Kushner tells GOP it needs to unify behind immigration plan The Hill's Morning Report - Can Trump save GOP in North Carolina special election? MORE (R-Mo.), the chairman of the Senate Rules Committee who has said that he will not bring up the legislation for a vote in committee. 


The advertisements are set to run almost daily on "Fox & Friends" in the senators' home states for the remainder of the August recess. The ads will also air on "Fox News Sunday" and "Meet the Press."

The television spots come as part of a larger campaign from Republicans for the Rule of Law to pressure McConnell to take up election security legislation in the Senate.

The group released a 60-second ad earlier this month targeting McConnell for his move to block requests from Democratic senators to pass election security bills by unanimous consent. 

McConnell has defended the decision, arguing that the bills were partisan in nature and that the Trump administration has made a concerted effort to secure the nation's elections. 

The ads released Wednesday air the statements Graham, Rubio, Blunt and Lankford have made about Russian interference in U.S. elections. 

“Russia’s interference is a threat to our democracy,” Graham says in one clip. “If we don’t hit them hard, we will be empowering Russia.”

“I don’t think Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinFeehery: Impeachment fever bad for Democratic governing vision Taliban travels to Moscow after Trump declares talks dead Russians tune out Vladimir Putin MORE interfered in our election,” Rubio says in an ad set to air in Florida. “I know he did.” 

The clips go on to mix in broadcast footage describing Russia's efforts to target U.S. elections in 2016, before a narrator adds that "Mitch McConnell is blocking election security legislation" that some GOP senators have introduced. 

"Protect our elections and don't let Mitch McConnell stand in your way," the ad concludes. 

"[McConnell] does the Republican Party no credit in making election security a Democrat issue, and then claiming that all election security bills are partisan power-grabs," Chris Truax, a legal adviser and spokesman for Republicans for the Rule of Law, said in a statement. 
"He must bring Republican-backed election security legislation to the floor for debate and amendment as soon as Congress returns from recess. McConnell and all Republican Senators have no greater responsibility than protecting our elections from foreign enemies like Russia and Iran. If Senator McConnell is unwilling to take the lead on this issue, the least he can do is get out of the way."

McConnell ignited fierce backlash last month after blocking two attempts from Democrats to pass election security legislation. The move from the Kentucky senator came just a day after former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerFox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal MORE warned that Russia was trying to interfere in the 2020 elections. 

Former GOP lawmaker and MSNBC host Joe ScarboroughCharles (Joe) Joseph ScarboroughJournalists, political heavyweights pay respects to Cokie Roberts: 'A pioneer for so many' MSNBC's Scarbrough credits Fox's Hemingway for prompting Kavanaugh correction in New York Times McConnell: 'Over-the-top' Moscow Mitch nickname effort to 'smear' me MORE branded McConnell "Moscow Mitch" following his decision, a nickname that has since gone viral among Democrats. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Democrats will 'certainly' beat Trump in 2020 Kavanaugh impeachment push hits Capitol buzz saw Lewandowski, Democrats tangle at testy hearing MORE (D-Calif.) called McConnell by the name last week

McConnell has pushed back against the criticism, calling it "modern-day McCarthyism" during a floor speech.

"These pundits are lying, lying when they dismiss the work that has been done. They’re lying when they insist I have personally blocked actions which, in fact, I have championed and the Senate has passed. They are lying when they suggest that either party is against defending our democracy," he said on the Senate floor last month.
When reached for comment on the ad, McConnell's office referred The Hill to a letter outlining the senator's efforts to bolster election security. The letter includes details on steps that McConnell says has led to stronger election systems in the U.S. 
Meanwhile, McConnell's campaign manager Kevin Golden accused Republicans for Rule of Law as "taking money from a left-wing billionaire and spending it to attack President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE and Senator McConnell."
Republicans for Rule of Law touts itself as a group of “life-long Republicans dedicated to defending the institutions of our republic.” The group has faced scrutiny in the past for accepting donations from Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder who has donated to Democrats and other anti-Trump groups.
Omidyar sits on the board of Democracy Fund Voice, a group that in 2018 donated $1.6 million to Defending Democracy Together and its Republicans for the Rule of Law project. 
"They're taking money from a left-wing billionaire and spending it to attack President Trump and Senator McConnell. Scam pacs come in all shapes and sizes, but this is the first one I've seen that resembles a laundromat," Golden said.
-- Updated at 11:35 a.m.