Paul Ryan's Super PAC takes aim at Democrat Jared Golden in new TV ad

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A political action committee tied to the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to release its first television advertisement of the campaign Wednesday, charging that Democratic congressional hopeful Jared Golden will support tax increases if he makes it to Capitol Hill.

Golden said Tuesday that while he supports hiking the taxes “on millionaires and billionaires,” he does not have any interest in hitting up ordinary Mainers.

Citing Golden’s support for the past two state budgets and his opposition to a $1.9 trillion tax cut approved in December in Washington, the Congressional Leadership Fund views it differently. It said Golden has supported higher taxes, including on income and purchases.

The ad, scheduled to run on television in the Bangor area and on the web, never mentions U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the two-term Republican whom Golden aims to unseat in the Nov. 6 election.

Golden’s bid to grab Maine’s 2nd District seat from Poliquin is one of the five most competitive contests in the nation, according to Axios, a well-regarded online news site. That it’s possibly such a close race has politically oriented organizations on both sides lining up to push their respective agendas.

The Sierra Club, for example, launched a digital ad campaign recently in the Portland Press Herald that zings Poliquin for voting against its positions on climate change and air pollution.

Matthew Gravatt, the Sierra Club’s associate legislative director, said in a prepared statement that Poliquin “has repeatedly voted to put polluter interests above the people he represents by undermining clean air and climate action policies that would benefit everyone.”

Poliquin spokesman Brendan Conley cited a number of measures where Poliquin defended the environment, including his votes to defend National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The Congressional Leadership Fund’s television ad is merely the latest volley in a campaign that began months ago as each side seeks to define the race on its term. The Fund, a Super PAC, is one of the most powerful voices among the cacophony.

“Liberal politician Jared Golden has voted for higher income taxes, higher sales taxes, and even higher taxes on Mainers when they die,” Michael Byerly, Fund spokesman, said. “If elected to Congress, Jared Golden would be a reliable vote for Nancy Pelosi’s extreme agenda of higher taxes, not Mainers.”

Golden said he is not afraid to say he has voted for some tax increases, such as one on rental cars in Maine that he believes are mostly used by out-of-staters on vacation.

“I’m a straight shooter,” the Lewiston Democrat said, adding that Poliquin and his allies “will say anything” if they think it will help them win in November.

The examples cited in the advertisement to show Golden’s propensity to raise taxes are hardly out of step with the Maine Legislature as a whole.

It specifically calls attention to three bills in Augusta that it says prove Golden “has supported higher income taxes, higher sales taxes, higher payroll taxes” and “higher taxes when you die.”

Two of the measures were the state budgets approved in 2015 and 2017, bills that carried overwhelmingly in both the House and the GOP-controlled Senate. For instance, the 2015 spending plan went into effect after the Legislature overrode Gov. Paul LePage’s veto, with a 109-37 vote in the House and a 25-10 vote in the Senate.

To achieve those margins, nearly half the Republicans in each chamber had to agree with the Democrats on the bills. Golden called the measure bipartisan and pointed out the 2015 bill cut taxes.

Golden’s support for “higher taxes when you die” is pegged to his opposition to a 2016 bill that would have repealed Maine’s estate tax, a proposal that failed to win support in either the House or the Senate.

The ad’s claim that “Golden even opposed tax relief that is saving middle-class Maine families over $2,000 a year” is tied to his stance against a federal tax cut that mostly benefits corporations and the rich. It is unclear how much the average Maine family will save.

The Congressional Leadership Fund has opened a field office in Bangor to help round up support for Poliquin. Its field offices in competitive districts across the country each have a full-time staffer and many interns and volunteers who are pressing the GOP case in phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.

The Fund, which has strong ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, is a Super PAC that can raise unlimited amounts of money and spend whatever it raises to support candidates it likes or oppose those it does not. It can take money from corporations, unions and individual donors.

Federal law requires that Super PACs operate independently of the campaigns they support. That means the Leadership Fund cannot contribute or plot with Poliquin’s campaign.

The Fund and its Democratic counterpart, the House Majority PAC, are likely to spend millions in the district this year. Both have reserved substantial blocks of time to air spots on Maine television this fall.

Two years ago, when Poliquin first faced a re-election battle, the House Majority PAC spent $1.8 million in its unsuccessful effort to defeat him. The Congressional Leadership Fund spent $1.1 million in 2016 to lend a hand to Poliquin.

In addition to Poliquin and Golden, there are two independents in the 2nd District race: Portland lawyer Tiffany Bond and Southwest Harbor educator Will Hoar.

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A screenshot from a new television advertisement by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC devoted to getting Republicans elected to the U.S. House. The ad is its first of the 2018 campaign for the 2nd District seat that U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin has held for four years. He faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Jared Golden of Lewiston.

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