U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has repeatedly warned about the role outside money will play in this year’s Senate race, but the Missouri Democrat’s campaign also has benefited from it.
Senate Majority PAC, a political action committee dedicated to electing Democrats to the Senate, launched an ad campaign Thursday on McCaskill’s behalf.
McCaskill told a crowd in Parkville last year to ignore all ads by outside groups even if they’re meant to help her.
“I don’t care if it’s an ad paid for by ‘We Love America’ or ‘We Hate Taxes’ or ‘Motherhood and Apple Pie.’ I don’t care if the ad is telling you I’m the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t care if the ad is for me or against me. If it doesn’t say paid for by either Claire McCaskill or the name of the Republican nominee and ‘I approved this message,’ ignore it all,” she said.
“Don’t pay attention to any of it. Even if it’s supposed to be helping me, I want you to ignore it.”
However, the ad from Senate Majority PAC features material that was put out by McCaskill’s campaign.
Campaigns are prohibited from coordinating with political action committees, but they are allowed to post footage that can be used in ads by committees and other outside groups.
The new ad features footage of McCaskill speaking to Missourians that had been posted to her campaign’s YouTube page a day before the ad campaign was announced.
Asked about why the campaign was providing footage for independent groups if the senator thinks Missourians should ignore their ads, McCaskill’s campaign spokeswoman, Meira Bernstein, said McCaskill has “made abundantly clear that she doesn’t care if an ad is for her or against her, Missourians should pay no mind if they don’t know exactly who is paying for the ad.”
Bernstein also said that the footage was posted by the campaign to its website several months before the ad came out.
“This footage is the exact footage that has been on our campaign homepage for months and was added to the campaign YouTube channel for consistency,” she said. “Our campaign does not have control over dark money groups, nor can we control what they decide to use from publicly available material.”
The ads from the Senate Majority PAC, which is affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, is meant to rebut a $1.8 million ad campaign by Americans For Prosperity, the main political arm of Wichita’s wealthy Koch family.
“Out-of-state billionaires coming to Missouri to attack our senator,” the ad from Senate Majority PAC says in reference from AFP’s ad campaign.
But the Democratic-aligned Senate Majority PAC also receives most of its money from multimillionaires and billionaires who don’t live in Missouri, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website.
The top donors to the PAC this election cycle are Fred Eychaner, a Democratic mega donor whose estimated fortune is around $500 million, and Deborah Simon, a member of Indiana’s Simon family, which has a fortune of nearly $7 billion.
Both gave $2 million to the PAC, according to Open Secrets. Billionaire George Soros gave $1 million.
Chris Hayden, the spokesman for the Democratic-aligned PAC, said the cost of the ad campaign will total $1.2 million.
The ad defends McCaskill’s decision to oppose President Donald Trump’s tax cuts last year and then launches into an attack on Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, the top Republican recruit to face McCaskill, for his support of the tax cuts.
Hawley’s campaign referenced the ads in a fundraising email Friday afternoon.
“Schumer knows that with Claire McCaskill in the Senate, he will always have an extra vote in favor of his liberal agenda. He knows she will continue to vote with him against tax cuts, against conservative Supreme Court Justices, and for the liberal party line,” the email said.