A Republican political group called "Send Harry Packing" has just been launched in Nevada to run attack ads against Democratic Senator Harry Reid. The leading participant is Mary Cheney, a political consultant and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The group's first thirty-second ad strings together some of Reid's more controversial past remarks, including his statement in 2007 that the Iraq War could not be won militarily and his 2008 quip that in Nevada's summer heat and humidity "you could literally smell the tourists" visiting the state Capitol.
The timing of the new group's launch appears to connect its formation with this week's ruling by a Nevada judge against another group headed by Cheney, the Alliance for America's Future. The judge ruled on Wednesday that the Alliance could not run ads supporting a candidate who is running for the Republican nomination for governor because it is not registered in Nevada as a political action committee.
With Nevada's primary season coming to an end next week, Cheney appears to be seeking a fresh start in the general election. Reid's reelection campaign has been in trouble for months, but he has recently gained ground and is now tied with or narrowly trailing his most likely Republican opponents.
The Alliance for America's Future is frequently described in newspaper accounts as "secretive." According to one description of the Nevada case, "The Alliance, a Virginia-based nonprofit, has refused to register and disclose who its contributors are, claiming that would violate its First Amendment rights to free speech. A spokesman said Tuesday there are also fears of retaliation against some of the contributors."
Cheney, who is gay herself, has recently come under fire from gay publications for the Alliance's attack ads against an opponent of Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum in the campaign for that state's Republican nomination for governor. McCollum has fought to ban gay adoption in a court case made notorious by the use as an "expert witness" of George "Rentboy" Rekers.
According to Tampa Bay Online, although "the McCollum campaign denies any connection" to the Alliance, the ads were produced by consultant Chris Mottola, who has worked for McCollum in the past. "In 2009, McCollum took criticism for giving Mottola a no-bid contract for $2.5 million in public money for series of public service ads on cybercrime and Internet predators. The ads prominently featured McCollum, and critics said they looked more like campaign ads than public service ads."
The Alliance's directors include Cheney, Barry Bennett, who is a former chief of staff to Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH), and former Dick Cheney aide Kara Ahern. Its lawyer in the Nevada case is Jason Torchinsky, who worked at the White House counsel's office under Alberto Gonzales and served in 2004 as deputy general counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign.
According to Talking Points Memo, Torchinsky has also been associated with the American Center for Voting Rights -- a Republican front group known for its attempts to promote the idea that so-called "voter fraud" is a determining factor in many political campaigns -- and with a fake progressive group that sent out mailers attempting to discourage liberal Democrats from supporting Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey.