DeMint targets Senate colleagues

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is planning to wage a television campaign against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democratic colleagues.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that DeMint helms, has produced an anti-Reid television ad and will raise money to launch it in Nevada.

{mosads}The Senate Conservatives Fund’s first target, however, is Sen. Michael Bennet, the freshman Democrat from Colorado who is running against Ken Buck, a favorite of Tea Party voters.

DeMint’s committee plans to begin airing a hard-hitting ad against Bennet in Colorado on Tuesday.

His group will buy at least $150,000 worth of airtime in what has emerged as one of the hottest Senate battlegrounds.

The Senate Conservatives Fund is also planning to launch an ad in Wisconsin against Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). Feingold is trailing in the polls to businessman Ron Johnson (R).

DeMint’s bold foray is certain to shock some of his colleagues because senators almost never wage direct political attacks against each other.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, has pledged not to campaign against Reid in Nevada.

And Reid has had a non-aggression pact with his home-state Republican colleague Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) for several years.

But DeMint has set aside Senate protocol as he tries to defeat liberal colleagues and elect solid conservatives such as Buck and Sharron Angle, who is running against Reid.

“The Senate Conservatives Fund is a political action committee dedicated to electing common-sense conservative leaders to the United States Senate,” DeMint explains in a video presentation on the group’s website.

The Senate Conservatives Fund is dedicated to strong national security, limited federal government and traditional family values, according to DeMint.

Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University, who has worked in the Senate as a senior adviser and scholar-in-residence, said DeMint’s ads break new ground.

Baker noted that then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) sparked outrage among Democrats when he traveled to South Dakota in 2004 to campaign for John Thune, who was running to unseat Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.

Frist wrote fundraising appeals on behalf of Thune and told donors the South Dakota race was his top priority, but Frist shied away from directly attacking Daschle in public.

The new ad slated for Colorado takes a direct shot at Bennet’s claim that he is an outsider who brings a fresh approach to Washington.

“What’s happened to Michael Bennet?” asks the ad’s narrator. “After only 18 months in Washington he acts like he’s been there forever.”

The ad tells voters that Bennet voted for “record spending and national debt, voted for big-government healthcare, voted to use our tax money to bail out the car companies, voted for job-killing tax increases.”

The spot concludes with the narrator saying Bennet “has already been in Washington too long.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund split the cost of making the ad with the Club for Growth, an advocacy group that favors lower taxes and smaller government.

The Club for Growth has already begun running its version of the ad.

Trevor Kincaid, a spokesman for the Bennet campaign, criticized DeMint for working with Club for Growth on the ad.

“DeMint is looking for an extreme ally and has plagiarized an ad that has already been found false in an effort to mislead voters in Colorado,” he said. “Buck and DeMint are both too extreme to trust.”

Kincaid noted that a local NBC affiliate in Colorado evaluated the ad’s claims and concluded that Bennet did not vote for job-killing tax increases.

“Bennet has not voted on a single measure that would have directly raised taxes, directly raised the tax rate,” the 9NEWS analysis stated.

But the television station concluded it was true that Bennet voted for record spending and national debt, citing his votes for the $787 billion stimulus package and a measure to increase the federal debt ceiling.

9NEWS also agreed with the claim that Bennet voted to use federal funds to rescue General Motors and Chrysler.

Matt Hoskins, a spokesman for the Senate Conservatives Fund,
defended the ad’s claims.

“Sen. Michael Bennet has voted to raise taxes
four times in just the past few months,” said Hoskins. “He voted to raise
income taxes, he voted to raise taxes on small businesses, he voted to raise
capital gains and dividend taxes, and he voted to raise the death tax. The fact
that he’s lying about his record in Washington shows how little respect he has
for Colorado voters.”

Hoskins pointed to Bennet’s opposition to four amendments
sponsored by DeMint that would have frozen tax rates at lower levels.

Two amendments offered on Aug. 5 would have blocked possible
tax increases on small-business owners and frozen income taxes at current
rates. Two Democrats, Sens. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), voted
for the measures.

An amendment offered on July 21 would have extended the
repeal of the estate tax. Lincoln and Nelson voted for the amendment but three
Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George
Voinovich (Ohio) opposed it.

An amendment offered on June 23 would have extended current
rates for capital gains and dividends taxes. Bennet voted to kill the
amendment, as did Lincoln and Voinovich. Nelson voted with 39 Republicans for it.

This story was updated at 10:50 a.m.

Tags Harry Reid John Thune Michael Bennet Mitch McConnell Ron Johnson Susan Collins

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