New Hampshire Dem Hassan Banks on Dark Money Attack Ads

Harry Reid Super PAC floods state with ad after Hassan balks at finance pledge

Maggie Hassan
Maggie Hassan / AP
March 9, 2016

A Super PAC affiliated with Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) ran a statewide attack ad in New Hampshire within weeks of Democrat Maggie Hassan’s refusal to sign an anti-dark money pledge.

Senate Majority PAC, the biggest campaign spender in 2014, will begin a statewide television advertising buy on Wednesday to aid Gov. Hassan in her race against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Sources familiar with regional advertising told the Washington Free Beacon that the weeklong commercial run will cost the Super PAC about $200,000.

The 30-second spot criticizes Republicans for preventing Barack Obama from replacing the late-Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia while linking the delay to GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

"Donald Trump wants the Senate to delay filling the Supreme Court vacancy so he can choose the nominee next year," the ad says. "Senator Kelly Ayotte is right there to help and Ayotte joined Trump and party bosses in refusing to consider any nominee."

It is one of the first dark money advertisements since Hassan refused to sign a pledge to crack down on third-party campaign operations. Ayotte asked the Democrat in February to sign the Peoples Pledge, which would have forced campaigns to donate the value of Super PAC and other outsider advertising to charity. Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) had previously endorsed the pledge, but Hassan and Ayotte failed to reach a final agreement.

The Ayotte campaign pointed to the Reid Super PAC ad buy as evidence that Hassan’s proclaimed opposition to Citizens United—the Supreme Court decision that led to the creation of Super PACs—is empty rhetoric.

"While Kelly continues to run a positive campaign about New Hampshire, Governor Hassan’s repeated refusal to sign the People’s Pledge has given the signal to Harry Reid and her Washington allies to flood New Hampshire airwaves with negative advertising," campaign manager Jon Kohan said in a statement. "If Governor Hassan means what she says about third party special interest money, she will immediately condemn Harry Reid’s negative ads and ask for them to be taken down."  

It is the third ad from Reid’s Super PAC during the 2016 campaign. The group spent more than half-a-million dollars attacking Sen. Ayotte in 2015, according to federal election filings. That effort included digital attacks and outreach, as well as a 30-second advertisement highlighting the Republican’s support from billionaire libertarians Charles and David Koch. That ad has not appeared on airwaves since Hassan entered the race and attended a fundraiser hosted by the Koch lobbyist David Castagnetti.

Kohan said that the Senate Majority PAC advertisement has killed any chance of the two sides coming to a future agreement.

"New Hampshire voters can officially say goodbye to any hope that Governor Maggie Hassan will change her mind and sign the People's Pledge that was good enough for Jeanne Shaheen and Elizabeth Warren," he said in a release. "Harry Reid and Washington Democrats begged Maggie Hassan to run for Senate, and it’s now clearer than ever that she has no interest in keeping third party special interest money out of this race."

Neither Senate Majority PAC, nor the Hassan campaign returned requests for comment.