Attack ads from a group with secret donors are targeting candidates in two congressional Republican primaries in Tennessee, reports The Tennessean. One of the targets, U.S. Rep. Diane Black, is calling on opponent Joe Carr to have the “dark money group” reveal donors.
Power of Liberty’s registered agent is Tennessee conservative activist Steve Gill, who said the group is a 501(c)(4), an Internal Revenue Service designation for “social welfare” nonprofit organizations that — unlike Super PACs — aren’t required to disclose their donors.
In addition to launching radio and mail ads attacking Black in Tennessee’s 6th congressional GOP primary, Power of Liberty has also released negative ads targeting Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, and businessman Brad Greer. All three are candidates in West Tennessee’s crowded 8th congressional district Republican primary to replace departing U.S. Rep. Steve Fincher.
…In a statement, Black spokesman Jonathan Frank said that Carr, a former state representative, should call on Power of Liberty to release its donors.
“The issue in this race is that this dark money group is spending more money than Joe Carr is raising on his own,” Frank said. “For all practical purposes, this group is his campaign; he has little in the way of support from across the district. Joe should ask this group to disclose its donors to leave no doubt among voters where his support is coming from.”
…Gill, who is working for multiple Republican candidates in Tennessee this election cycle, called Power of Liberty an “issue advocacy” group, likening the organization’s efforts to the right-wing Americans For Prosperity, which has opposed a gas tax and Medicaid expansion, among other agenda items at the Tennessee legislature.
“The issues (of Power of Liberty) are all the same stuff that we’ve been pushing for a long time — the illegal immigration issues, government elitism, tax policies,” Gill said. “It’s the same conservative stuff that I do all the time.”
…Gill said Power of Liberty might make an advertising play in Tennessee’s 4th congressional district race between U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and challenger Grant Starrett, as well as a race in Virginia that he did not identify. He also said Power of Liberty played a role in helping organize the rollout of a new “Blue Lives Matter” effort — a state legislative push from multiple Republican lawmakers to pass legislation to increase penalties for assaulting, killing and attempting to kill law enforcement officers in Tennessee.
…Kelsey, one of 13 candidates running in the 8th congressional district, has been targeted by both mail and radio ads paid for by Power of Liberty. The mail piece criticizes his vote in 2015 in favor of in-state tuition at public universities and colleges for undocumented immigrants.
“As illegals continue to pour across our open borders, Senator Brian Kelsey has a simple a plan to deal with illegal immigration: Send illegal immigrants to college and send Tennessee taxpayers the bill!” the ads reads.
Kelsey told The Tennessean that he regrets that vote, but like the Black campaign, he said the 501(c)(4) organization should reveal its donors.
“I fully support the free speech of this group, but I think they should disclose who’s funding it,” Kelsey said.‘ Continue reading