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A “super PAC” backed by House Republicans announced plans to spend $500,000 against Mike Derrick in the final stretch of New York’s 21st District Congressional race. Pictured above: The candidates squared off a debate at the Time Warner Cable studios in Albany on Oct. 3, 2016. From left: Mike Derrick, Matt Funiciello and Rep. Elise Stefanik.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A “super PAC” backed by House Republicans announced plans to spend $500,000 against Mike Derrick in the final stretch of New York’s 21st District Congressional race.
The independent expenditure will include television advertising in the Albany and Watertown media markets, the Congressional Leadership Fund announced on Friday.
“In just two years, Elise Stefanik has delivered for her district and stood as a conservative, results-oriented leader in Congress,” said Ruth Guerra, a CLF spokeswoman. “Mike Derrick, on the other hand, vows to be another rubber stamp to the failed Obama-Clinton agenda that has left hardworking families behind.”
The spending influx comes three weeks before voters head to the polls on Nov. 8, and is part of a $10 million package allocated last week to 15 congressional districts across the country, bringing CLF’s total announced general election spending to date to over $33 million in 29 districts.
CLF and its sister organization, American Action Network (AAN), remain the single largest outside conservative spenders on the U.S. House. The two groups spent $20 million in independent expenditures on U.S. House races in 2014.
RYAN: STEFANIK HAS MY ‘FULL SUPPORT’
The firehose comes as the GOP deals with the fallout following the release of a tape that revealed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging about groping women.
Since the leak of the tape and an acrimonious second presidential debate, Trump has been accused of sexual assault from at least nine women who have come forward.
House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared to indicate the race was lost last week, and said his remaining priority would be to ensure Republicans retained the majority in the House.
Stefanik worked with Ryan when she served as Policy Director for 2012 GOP National Convention Platform; he was the party’s vice presidential candidate.
Last week, the Wisconsin lawmaker posted a photo of himself with Stefanik on Twitter: “Elise Stefanik is part of a new generation of leaders who bring fresh ideas to Washington,” Ryan wrote. “She has my full support.”
In addition to Derrick, a Democrat, Stefanik also faces a challenge from Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello.
The Siena Research Institute announced last week they would not poll the district, citing a lack of resources, according to the Post Star.
But a NRCC-commissioned poll released Monday revealed Stefanik led Derrick 54 to 29 percent.
That same poll, conducted by American Viewpoint, found the lawmaker had a 55 percent approval and 27 percent disapproval rating; Derrick had a 28 percent approval and 19 percent disapproval rating.
A Stefanik campaign spokesman declined to comment on if the district has been flagged by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) as one that may go blue.
According to Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” forecast, Democrats need to gain 30 seats to flip the House.
That report, published Oct. 13, said Democrats can expect to gain between 10 to 15 seats.
“We do not yet know the implication that Donald Trump’s apparent weakening in the polls will have down the ticket, which is why this is an odd time to take a look at the House,” wrote Kyle Kondik.
Another DC-area outlet, the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call, has rated the race as “Safe Republican.”
But Republicans aren’t taking any chances on the seat that Stefanik won by 19 points in 2014.
“Our great fundraising allows us to spend more money than ever before to safeguard the strongest center-right majority possible in the House,” said Mike Shields, president of CLF and AAN, in a statement. “Expanding beyond the top competitive seats on the map, these latest ad reservations are challenging liberal spending in more districts and standing beside more strong conservative Members of Congress.”
DERRICK HITS BACK
The $500,000 spend caps off a week of non-stop criticism of Stefanik from the Derrick camp on her support of Trump.
“Thanks to her unwavering support for Donald Trump, Elise Stefanik’s campaign is in a tailspin and now her backers in Washington are trying to bail her out,” said Drew Prestridge, a Derrick campaign spokesman. “Elise has been a part of the partisan establishment in Washington for more than 10 years and it’s clear she’s cashing in all her favors now. If anything, this just underscores the fact that Elise is not the independent voice she claims to be.”
Lenny Alcivar, a spokesman for the Stefanik campaign, fired back:
“This isn’t complicated. The reason former Colorado Republican-turned-Democrat Mike Derrick has been abandoned by his own party is because he has no new ideas for the North Country,” Alcivar said.
Alcivar continued: “In this election, Matt Funiciello is the Bernie Sanders candidate. Mike Derrick is the candidate who supports the Obama Administration’s dangerous deal with Iran, which makes us less safe.”
“We remain confident that Elise is in the strongest possible position to win in November,” said Alcivar, citing the lawmaker’s efforts to promote economic growth “while protecting Fort Drum and North Country veterans.”
The Stefanik campaign has largely avoided mention of Funiciello until this week, seemingly content to let him hammer away at Derrick.
But Alcivar’s comments allude to the Stefanik campaign’s latest advertisement, which appears to try to siphon support from Derrick by reminding voters of the third-party candidate.
“Which candidate for Congress is the real progressive?” intones the narrator. “Matt Funiciello, of course. He’s the green candidate for Congress.”
Funiciello called the 30-second spot a “cynical effort.”
“While these two candidates are selling each other like toothpaste on television, I don’t want to be a part of that,” Funiciello said. “The Republican in this race has frequently tried to use me as a pawn.”
“This is one of the strangest, unconventional behaviors I’ve seen yet in 25 years of watching elections.”
FUNICIELLO DECRIES ‘DARK MONEY’
The Green Party does not accept corporate contributions, and Funiciello has refused to accept corporate, PAC and special interest donations.
The candidate has also been vocal in denouncing “dark money,” or the campaign donations given to LLCs and non-profits which are then able to spend money on races without disclosing their donors.
What’s even worse, said the candidate, is “gray money,” or spending by state super PACs that report other PACs as donors, making it nearly impossible to identify original donors.
“Dark money is the latest sign that our democracy is rapidly turning into an oligarchy,” Funiciello said in a statement. “When money counts as speech, being able to give unlimited amounts skews an already broken system into a battleground for only the very top of the 1 percent.”
Funiciello has called for full public financing of elections at all levels of government, and for enacting strict transparency laws that force campaign committees and PACs to disclose all of their donors.
Funiciello has frequently assailed both Stefanik and Derrick as “corporate candidates.”
“That means I’m the only candidate in NY21 that’s going to raise issues for the working class,” he said.
Despite the lack of external polling, Funiciello said he believes his support in the district is surging:
“The result of this election is no way predetermined,” Funiciello said.
Stefanik last week announced her campaign raised $618,000 in the third quarter, and now has $1.1 million cash on hand.
Derrick announced $460,000 raised this quarter, and has over $360,000 current cash on hand.
Through Sept. 30, the Stefanik campaign has raised a total of more than $2.8 million dollars for her re-election, more than doubling the $1.1 million reported by the Derrick campaign since he declared his candidacy last July.
Information on Funiciello’s totals weren’t immediately available at the time this story went to print on Tuesday morning.