WASHINGTON -- Oregon GOP Senate candidate Monica Wehby used the troubles at the Department of Veterans Affairs Wednesday as the basis for a fundraising email attacking her opponent, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Wehby's email to supporters came on the day that the VA inspector general released a scathing report concluding that veterans waited an average of 115 days for a first primary care appointment at the troubled veterans hospital in Phoenix -- far longer than officials there had originally claimed.
In her fundraising pitch, Wehby chastises Merkley for not calling for the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki -- then asks people to donate to her campaign:
Despite a preliminary inspector general report showing systemic problems within the Department of Veterans Affairs that led to multiple deaths and potentially affected thousands more, Senator Jeff Merkley still refuses to call for Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. That is unacceptable.
While a growing number of Senator Merkley's Democratic colleagues have called for Shinseki's resignation, he still refuses to take action.
Will you help Dr. Monica Wehby stand up for our veterans? She needs all the help she can get to stop the destructive political machine operated by DC insiders like Jeff Merkley.
Please show your support for Monica by clicking here to donate $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 or more! Every dollar goes directly towards stopping Merkley and his political cronies.
The Republican National Committee announced Wednesday that it was launching robocalls and a "Twitter campaign" urging Americans to call their representatives and demand an independent investigation into allegations that VA patients died while waiting for care.
Crossroads GPS, the conservative group founded by Karl Rove, is going after Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) -- who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee -- for not doing enough to address the scandal. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who is running for Senate, similarly put out a Web ad accusing his opponent, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), of doing "nothing" on the matter.
But using the scandal for political gain doesn't sit well with Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.). Miller, chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, warned lawmakers in an interview with CNN Wednesday not to turn the issue into "political football."
"I wouldn’t use anything like that politically," Miller said. "I will tell you this, I have tried since I have been chairman of this committee to work with both sides of the aisle. My ranking member [Mike Michaud (D-Maine)] receive briefings together. ... But this is a bipartisan issue, we are talking about Americans, people who have worn the uniform. It should not be a political football. And we on the House side have not done that."
The VA inspector general's report did prompt more lawmakers to call on Shinseki to resign. Miller and Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) were among those who asked him to step aside Wednesday.
Wehby's full campaign email:
UPDATE: 5/29/14 -- Wehby Campaign Manager Charlie Pearce sent over a statement responding to the criticism, writing, "Senator Jeff Merkley abdicated his responsibility and veterans needlessly suffered because of the failure of leadership in Washington. It's highly offensive and telling that some Democrats are more outraged about an email than they are about the mistreatment of our heroes."