PACs supporting incumbent liberal Republican Richard Hanna are airing non-stop TV ads attacking Claudia Tenney as not conservative enough.
Two Super PACs have spent over $700,000 to defeat a Tea Party challenger in New York’s conservative, safe-Republican 22nd Congressional District, against her liberal Republican opponent, incumbent Richard Hanna. The primary is on June 24.
The ads are “false flags” because they purport to be supporting conservative causes and the most conservative candidate in a conservative district, when in fact they are supporting the more liberal candidate.
Tenney is the more conservative candidate, by far
Claudia Tenney, a Marine mom who just last year scored a 96% rating with the Conservative Party of New York State, is being portrayed in the TV ads as the less conservative candidate in the race to Hanna, a Congressman ranked by the National Journal as the 3rd most liberal GOP congressman.
In fact, Hanna was one of only a pair of Republicans who voted against delaying Obamacare, was the lone one to oppose banning federal payments for abortion, and told members of a pro-abortion rally to give their money to Democrats. During the 2012 campaign, Hanna referred to Tea Party elements in the Republican Party as being extremists, incapable of governing.
Jen Kuznicki has more background on the candidates political leanings.
That said, a group known as the American Unity PAC has spent well over half-a-million dollars solely against Tenney this election cycle. Similarly, the Patriot Prosperity PAC has spent over $100,000 to defeat Tenney.
In all, these supposedly ‘conservative’ Super PACs have spent $704,345 against Tenney.
Non-Stop TV Ads Attacking Tenney
This false flag operation came to our attention when Professor Jacobson, in neighboring NY-23 but within the same television market, began to notice almost non-stop ads attacking Tenney as not conservative enough:
So what’s really going on here?
In the case of the American Unity PAC, we have a classic example of bait and switch negative advertising. One television ad attacks Tenney for voting against various tax cuts, though the votes they are referring to were actually state budget bills that were submitted as a whole, not as separate tax provisions.
Tenney told Syracuse.com that “The attack ads are completely untrue.”
She added, “I have never voted to increase taxes. I voted against the liberal budget proposed by (Gov.) Cuomo and approved by Speaker Silver.”
The American Unity PAC however is less concerned about overall conservative values such as lower taxes, as they are concerned with one singular issue – “full freedom and equality for gay and lesbian Americans.”
The American Unity PAC was founded by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, a Republican who has backed candidates who support gay marriage.
Indian Casino interests supporting Hanna
Meanwhile, the Patriot Prosperity PAC announced their endorsement of Richard Hanna citing the economy. Much like American Unity, this particular PAC is also concerned with one platform – the Turning Stone Resort Casino, run by CEO and Oneida Indian Nation Representative, Ray Halbritter.
Halbritter has had a long-standing feud with Tenney, who in 2013 opposed a gaming deal the state signed with the Oneida Indian Nation. The agreement meant that the group would give a portion of their profits to the state in exchange for exclusive rights to operate casinos in a significant portion of central New York. Tenney referred to the deal as “a corrupt bargain between the governor and casino interests that will rob taxpayers (and) cost us more jobs.”
Further adding to Halbritter’s distaste towards the Tea Party candidate is that Tenney was able to unearth documents that showed he may not even be a legitimate member of his tribe.
So Why Are The PACs doing a “false flag” operation?
Two supposedly conservative Super PACs going after the lone conservative candidate in the primary doesn’t make much sense. Until you pay close attention to the driving force behind those PACs.
As a reliably liberal-leaning Congressman, Hanna touts views supported by these PACs. The American Unity PAC backs same-sex rights, something Hanna has offered explicit support for in the past. The Patriot Prosperity PAC is funded, at least in part, by the Oneida Indian Nation, run by a man who raised nearly $2.5 million for President Obama’s re-election campaign. Hanna, upon hearing President Obama’s agenda during the 2013 State of the Union address said he “agreed with much of it.”
Perhaps Tenney best described the situation involving these false flag conservative Super PACs.
“I think it’s a little odd that a PAC interested in supporting Democratic issues is supporting a Republican that claims to be a conservative but isn’t.”
The Primary may be the equivalent of the General Election
Another factor that comes into play here is the district Tenney and Hanna are battling in. The 22nd Congressional district does not have a Democrat challenger.
Should Hanna win, he will represent the district in Congress come 2015. If Tenney pulls the upset, Hanna holds the Independence line and could conceivably stay on that line and run a campaign, according to political experts.
This would be a less desirable scenario, meaning Hanna and his Super PAC friends are going all out for the win at the primary.
The next Brat-Cantor upset?
Still, funnelling in nearly $1 million for a primary in upstate New York seems curiously high. And using false flag conservative Super PACs as a means to distort a Tea Party candidate as being less conservative than the liberal shows that Hanna’s team may have gotten a scare based on the recent Eric Cantor primary results.
Phil Klinkner, a professor at Hamilton College, recently told the Utica Observer-Dispatch that “The Cantor results have to worry the Hanna folks.”
He added, “They wouldn’t be spending it unless they really thought they had a challenge.”
Tenney agrees, saying the Cantor upset “shows that the Republican Party establishment has to stand up for its core principles — less government and lower taxes.” Something establishment Republicans like Hanna have long since abandoned.
Another worrisome aspect of the Cantor upset for Team Hanna? The GOP polling firm McLaughlin & Associates just last month indicated that Hanna has a comfortable lead. This is the same polling firm that was slightly off on the Cantor/Brat results … by 44 points. Offering a myriad of excuses as to why his polling firm was so off base, John McLaughlin cited one particular aspect that could show up during the Tenney/Hanna primary – voter turnout.
Tenney has hinted herself that turnout could be key. She told reporters that she plans to appear “in front of as many voters as possible so the voters know that there is a true constitutional conservative running and they have a choice against the third-most liberal member of Congress who described conservatives as angry extremists — channeling Cuomo’s words — about conservatives having no place in New York.”
Professor Klinker believes it is possible for outside conservative groups to step into this race and recognize it as an opportunity similar to the Cantor primary. But they need to do so now, and with the same fervor that the false flag Super PACs have in protecting Hanna.
If they do, upstate New York just might see as big an upset, and as big a Tea Party tidal wave as we recently witnessed in Virginia.