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 McConnellOvernight Health Care: Fireworks on health care expected at Dem debate | Trump FDA pick dodges on vaping ban | Trump to host meeting on youth vaping Friday | AMA calls for immediate vaping ban GOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal 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 RubioSenate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Senators voice support for Iran protesters but stop short of taking action McConnell urges Trump to voice support for Hong Kong protesters MORE (R-Fla.), Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: Report on alleged surveillance abuse in 2016 to be released Dec. 9 McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack MORE (R-S.C.) and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordSenate eyes forcing House to vote again on stopgap as deadline looms Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges On The Money: Lawmakers dismiss fears of another shutdown | Income for poorest Americans fell faster than thought | Net employment holds steady in September | Groups press Senate on retirement bill MORE (R-Okla.), co-sponsors of bills the group says will "help protect America’s elections."

The group also targets Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMichelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule 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 PutinAs Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Yang jokes first thing he'd say to Putin as president is 'Sorry I beat your guy' Biden: Impeachment hearings show 'Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee' 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 MuellerHouse impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' MORE warned that Russia was trying to interfere in the 2020 elections. 

Former GOP lawmaker and MSNBC host Joe ScarboroughCharles (Joe) Joseph ScarboroughScarborough: Trump is either 'an agent of Russia' or 'a useful idiot' Saagar Enjeti: Republicans lost Kentucky by failing to appeal to working class Scarborough knocks GOP senator for Pelosi remark: He 'degraded himself' MORE branded McConnell "Moscow Mitch" following his decision, a nickname that has since gone viral among Democrats. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiKlobuchar shuts down idea a woman can't beat Trump: 'Pelosi does it every day' Budowsky: Trump destroying GOP in 2018, '19, '20 On The Money: Senate scraps plan to force second shutdown vote | Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny | McConnell rips House Dems for holding up trade deal 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 of "taking money from a left-wing billionaire and spending it to attack President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate 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.