WASHINGTON -- Groups trying to stop Chuck Hagel from becoming the next Defense Secretary have spent $123,000 on television ads against the Republican former senator from Nebraska, according to a new analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.
In the run-up to his confirmation hearings on Thursday, Hagel has faced a barrage of spending from anonymous donors hiding behind pop-up groups with names like "Use Your Mandate" and "Americans for a Strong Defense." Attack ads are common in political campaigns but rarely used to oppose Cabinet nominees.
Americans for a Strong Defense is run by former Mitt Romney campaign staffers, according to ABC News. The group has spent at least $63,000 on TV ads aimed at convincing Democratic senators up for reelection in 2014 to vote against Hagel.
One of the more secretive groups targeting Hagel is Use Your Mandate, which characterizes itself as being composed of mostly Democrats and independents who want to stay anonymous because they fear retribution from the White House. It has placed $47,000 worth of TV ads. The pop-up group has primarily focused on Hagel's weak record on LGBT issues.
Despite claiming it leans left, Use Your Mandate uses "Del Cielo Media, an arm of one of the most prominent Republican ad-buying firms in the country, Smart Media," The New York Times reported recently.
The American Future Fund, which spent $18.1 million against President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, spent $14,000 on an anti-Hagel ad that aired this week during Fox News Sunday. The ad questioned the former senator's personal financial assets, hoping to delay Hagel's hearing.
Other groups have placed ads online and in print. The Log Cabin Republicans, for example, has run anti-Hagel ads in both The New York Times and the Washington Post, and the group has refused to disclose the donors who have paid for them.
The secretive spending of these groups is part of the legacy of Citizens United, which loosened campaign finance rules and ushered in more anonymous political spending.
A national security group called the Bipartisan Group has come to Hagel's aid, according to the Sunlight Foundation, and placed approximately $35,000 worth of supportive ads online in Politico's Playbook.
Many of Hagel's opponents have been trying to portray him as weak in his support of Israel. That talking point, however, was undermined when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) -- known for his staunchly "pro-Israel" record -- endorsed Hagel for Defense Secretary.