Senator Rand Paul is taking his mission to cut U.S. foreign aid to the voters this week with a series of campaign ads that target Senate Democrats who voted against his amendment to block U.S. aid to Pakistan, Egypt, and Libya. The Kentucky Republican’s political action committee, RAND PAC, went up with the first two ads this week, targeting West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Florida Senator Bill Nelson, two Democrats facing re-election challenges this November.
A Paul political operative told Business Insider Tuesday that another ad is planned to go up against Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio by Thursday, and one will likely go up against Claire McCaskill in Missouri sometime next week.
According to the Paul operative, these states were chosen because the Republican challengers — businessman John Raese in West Virginia, Florida Rep. Connie Mack, Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, and Missouri Congressman Todd Akin — support Paul’s stance on foreign aid. More broadly, he said, the ads are an attempt to “change some hearts and minds” on the issue of foreign aid.
Regardless of the intent, the ad blitz is an aggressive move by Paul, a first-term Senator who is just starting to exercise his endorsement muscle. While it is not unusual for elected officials to support candidates through their leadership PACs, it is rare for a sitting Senator to level such harsh attacks against his colleagues.
The ads themselves are pretty brutal, juxtaposing the votes against Paul’s amendment with images of the recent attacks on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Libya and Egypt.
“Joe Manchin works with Barack Obama to send billions of our taxpayer dollars to countries where radicals storm our embassies, burn our flag, and kill our diplomats,” the narrator says in the West Virginia ad. “It’s time to bring our taxpayer dollars home. It’s time to send Joe Manchin home too.”
Watch the full West Virginia ad below:
Manchin’s response to the ad has been swift and aggressive. His campaign team organised a press call featuring South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham, the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State and Foreign Operations and one of the fiercest critics of Paul’s amendment to block aid.
Paul’s amendment, Graham said, “would have put the terrorists and the radicals on steroids,” explaining that cutting off aid to Libya would have deprived the country of much-needed aid because of the actions of a “few radicals.” In Egypt, he added, cutting off aid would have broken the Camp David Accords and “would have been the worst thing we could have done for the state of Israel.”
Reacting to Graham’s comments, the Paul political operative accused the South Carolina Senator of mischaracterizing the amendment and trying to “scare people” by saying that it would cut off aid to Israel.
“Senator Paul neither wrote the law that way, nor intends to apply it in that way,” the source told Business Insider. “It applies to those three countries only. Any attempt to tie it to other aid is being done to scare people.”
“Clearly there is a problem in these countries,” he added. “Most people agree that we should be examining the problems, and it doesn’t seem like anybody has really done that.”
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