Prominent Democratic groups backed by some of the nation’s largest labor unions made large independent expenditures on Tuesday attacking Republican candidates in Arkansas and Florida.
Independent expenditure filings with the Federal Election Commission show Patriot Majority USA spent more than $300,000 attacking Rep. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), who is running for Senate.
House Majority PAC also disclosed more than $330,000 in independent expenditures attacking David Jolly, a Republican candidate in Florida’s 13th congressional district.
The expenditures funded a pair of ads that have come under fire for what critics say are misleading or hypocritical statements.
House Majority also spent nearly $25,000 supporting Florida chief financial officer Alex Sink, Jolly’s Democratic opponent.
Patriot Majority and House Majority have received large contributions from labor unions, according to data on file with the Department of Labor.
Patriot Majority USA and its sister organization Patriot Majority PAC have received $2.9 million from labor unions since 2012. House Majority PAC has received about $2.8 million from unions in that time.
The groups’ union supporters include the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the National Education Association.
Cotton spokesman David Ray pointed out that unions have been supportive of Pryor in the past, donating more than $750,000 to his various campaigns.
"It's not surprising that big labor unions are coming to try and bail out one of their biggest supporters in Senator [Mark] Pryor," Ray said in an emailed statement.
Patriot Majority, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that does not disclose its donors, has previously drawn fire from media fact-checkers over what they described as blatantly dishonest attacks on Cotton, who is running to unseat the incumbent Democrat Pryor.
Patriot Majority’s independent expenditures this week primarily supported a new ad attacking Cotton for opposing the farm bill and supporting an increase in the official retirement age.
Ray said Patriot Majority’s attack is similarly misleading, noting that Pryor has never advocated reforming Medicare for current retirees or those nearing retirement.
"He supports common-sense reforms that strengthen and preserve Medicare for future generations," Ray said.
Pryor has also supported increasing the age at which Americans can receive Social Security, from 65 to "68 or 69."
House Majority PAC has also been criticized for its anti-Jolly ad, which claims that the Republican wants to privatize Social Security.
The ad prominently features a memo from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). However, the AARP distanced itself from the ad on Wednesday.
"We were not aware of, nor does AARP have any involvement with, any political campaign including the recent District 13 ad from the House Majority Pac that mentions AARP," a spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times.
Like Pryor, Sink has received significant support from labor unions.