The secretive Concerned Taxpayers of America (CTA) is out with a new $79,000 ad buy against Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), bringing its total spending in Oregon's 4th congressional district race to more than $165,000 -- four times what DeFazio's opponent has spent.
The new spending comes less than a week after DeFazio had a high-profile confrontation with one of CTA's staffers. On Friday, DeFazio, accompanied by journalists from The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, attempted to visit the Capitol Hill headquarters of the political action committee to ask it to make its donors public. The man who answered the door denied being associated with CTA, even though subsequent research revealed that he works for the group's treasurer and is on the organization's voice mail message.
CTA began running television ads against DeFazio on Sept. 21 and has injected a significant amount of cash in the race. Its first media buy amounted to $89,000 with an ad attempting to depict DeFazio as a puppet of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) and urging voters to back his opponent, Republican Arthur Robinson. An editorial in The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon, called it a "a reach," since DeFazio has "opposed several of the speaker's top legislative priorities."
CTA is one of the new "super PACs" that are allowed to raise and spend money in unlimited amounts, thanks to recent court rulings. These groups must operate independently from political parties and campaigns, and while they must disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission, campaign finance advocates argue that they're able to largely operate in the shadows. "They're springing up like wildfire because they can take corporate money in huge amounts and while they have to file disclosure forms, the next time those reports are due isn't until the middle of October, so they're really able to spend money for a really critical part of the election season without having to disclose," said Lisa Gilbert, democracy advocate at U.S. PIRG
DeFazio told The Huffington Post that he believes Robinson's outspoken advocacy on behalf of conservative causes is the reason CTA is going after him so aggressively. "This is a small group of individuals, unknown, undisclosed, with obviously very, very deep pockets who have decided to campaign just to attack me and help my opponent, who obviously supports their radical extreme right-wing libertarian agenda," he said. "He has run in the highest circles of the right-wing libertarian whack jobs for decades. He's well known, he's a prominent national speaker on the homeschooling movement, he wants to abolish public education, and he is their front person with an organization and a so-called petition against global climate change, and he himself has [said he has] definitively proven climate change theory and knows it's a hoax to enslave the American people. I mean, this sounds like stuff that wouldn't go anywhere, but with hundreds of thousands -- or millions -- of dollars behind it in a swing district like mine, you don't know where it will go."
The Huffington Post contacted both CTA Treasurer Jason Miller and the Robinson campaign, but we did not receive a response.
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