Progressive Groups Launch Debt Ceiling Ad Campaign At 11th Hour

07/21/2011 07:55 am ET | Updated Sep 20, 2011
  • Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- In a sign of where politics currently stand on a vote to raise the debt ceiling, two progressive-leaning groups are launching a new ad campaign targeting four Republican lawmakers for flirting with default in an effort to block high-end tax breaks.

The ad is the first of the debt ceiling debate to be sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the group Americans United for Change -– both organizational allies of the White House and DNC. It will air in four districts: Wausau, Wis., home of Rep. Sean Duffy; Duluth, Minn., home of Rep. Chip Cravaack; Syracuse, N.Y., home of Rep. Richard Hanna; and Traverse City, Mich., home of Rep. Dave Camp.

Coming less than two weeks before Aug. 2, the date by which the Treasury has said the debt ceiling must be raised, the spots clearly indicate what progressive-minded operatives see as a pressing challenge going forward: to paint Republicans as "recklessly risking default ... to protect tax breaks for millionaires, oil companies and CEOs who fly around in corporate jets." In so doing, the ad campaign seizes upon a strategy Democrats have long seen as politically advantageous.

But as the time remaining to reach a deal winds down, the party is faced with an alternative chore: getting House Republicans to actually raise the debt ceiling. Except for Camp, the targets of the ad campaign all represent swing districts in Congress. The groups behind the ads hope the political pressures of coming from more moderate districts might help persuade them not to delay a debt ceiling deal. A long-serving member from a depressed part of the country, Camp is the type of lawmaker House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will have to lean on if he wishes to pad the number of Republican votes for the final debt ceiling package.

"Congress should be focused on creating jobs, not finding ways to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU, said in a statement accompanying the new campaign. "Working families will not forget those who step forward for a balanced approach and those who wish to sacrifice the American Dream to satisfy an ideological agenda."

Combined, the two groups will spend $30,000 total on the ads -- far from an intimidating sum of money, but money nonetheless. SEIU will be running web ads on local news websites as well as geo-targeted video ads on Google's network in Duffy's Wisconsin district.

WATCH the ad airing in Duffy's district: