Ad for U.S. Democratic Senate candidate funded by PAC with GOP ties

GOP buys ad for Democratic Senate candidate

An ad for a U.S. Democratic Senate candidate is being funded by a PAC with GOP ties.

The 30-second ad tells viewers states Sen. Erica Smith was endorsed by progressives and unions, is in favor of “Medicare for All” and will vote for the Green New Deal.

It's part of a more than $1 million buy and will air on Channel 9 and TV stations across the state. Viewers who watch the ad may think it was produced by a liberal group with its praise for Smith's positions. However, public documents reveal GOP ties to the PAC responsible for the message.

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A group by the name Faith and Power PAC produced the ad. Documents filed with the FCC show the ad was purchased by Neylan and Partners. The media-buying firm was previously paid millions by a PAC supporting Carly Fiorina’s presidential bid.

According to Faith and Power's statement of organization, the PAC's bank is Chain Bridge. Chain Bridge has been used by the Senate Leadership Fund and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The only public name associated with Faith and Power is Ezekial Patterson. He's listed as the treasurer on the PAC's statement of the organization.

The only registered voter with that name in North Carolina is a Republican who lives in Monroe, according to the voter registry. Tax records show the home where he is registered to vote at is owned by Salvatore Purpura. Purpura’s political work is extensive. His resume includes work for the Bush-Cheney 2004 election campaign, Rick Perry’s campaign committee and even Stephen Colbert’s fake super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

So why is a group with so many Republican ties trying to boost a progressive state senator?

Political scientist Michael Bitzer said they likely view her as an easier opponent for incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis.

"If it is somebody much more progressive, much more liberal, much more left of center, that's going to make North Carolina much more easier for Republicans to win," Bitzer said.

This tactic isn’t limited to Republicans. Former Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill wrote in her memoir about how she and her consultants put together a $1.7 million plan to boost Republican Todd Akin through TV ads.

Akin ended up winning the primary and losing to McCaskill in the general election.

Bitzer said in a center-right state like North Carolina, it's not surprising groups would use this tactic.

“Anybody can purchase a play in politics, so this is what we are stuck with," he said.

The Smith campaign tweeted a full statement (below).

Smith’s major opponent is Cal Cunningham, who has been endorsed by the DSCC and has raised the most money for the race on the Democratic side. Cunningham’s campaign declined to comment.