A national political action committee formed by Republicans determined to defeat President Trump is launching a $1 million advertising campaign that attacks Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine as the president’s “stooge.”

The ads, which will appear Wednesday on television and across several social media platforms, are funded by The Lincoln Project, a “never Trump” group that has poured over $7 million into scathing ads attacking the president and, now, several Republican senators the PAC views as his enablers.

The $1 million ad campaign against Collins will be the PAC’s largest expenditure against any of the 10 Republican incumbents it is seeking to throw from the Senate in 2020. Collins, running for a fifth term in the Senate, is facing Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat from Freeport, in a race that has drawn national attention and historic levels of campaign spending – already over $40 million with the election still 97 days away.

The PAC’s other Senate targets include Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Martha McSally of Arizona, among others. The PAC also has spent more than $720,000 in support of Trump’s presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, according to federal campaign finance records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org website.

The Lincoln Project ad criticizes Collins for not standing up to Trump and compares her unfavorably with several other well-known Maine Republicans, including Olympia Snowe, William S. Cohen and the late Margaret Chase Smith.

The ad highlights Smith’s “Declaration of Conscience” speech calling out Sen. Joseph McCarthy for his communist witch hunts of the 1950s.

“When the men in the Senate were terrified of Joseph McCarthy, she called him out. Just like Susan Collins stands up to Donald Trump,” the ads male narrator says, and then pauses, “Oh wait – Susan Collins never stands up to Donald Trump. That’s why Maine is done with her weakness.” The ad goes on to call Collins a “stooge” for Trump and a “fraud.”

Collins’ campaign spokesman, Kevin Kelley, declined to comment on the ad campaign. He referred questions on The Lincoln Project to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a PAC that’s backing Collins, McConnell and other Senate Republicans. The NRSC has spent more than $3 million on attack ads against Gideon.

The Lincoln Project’s founders include George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway; Reed Galen, a Republican strategist who worked with President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; and John Weaver, who has been a political strategist for numerous Republicans, including President George H.W. Bush.

Jennifer Horn, another Lincoln Project founder and a former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said Trump was the most important issue of the election and Lincoln Project backers believe he “poses an existential threat to the future of the Republic.”

The PAC’s funding includes Democratic donors, especially from the tech sector, and critics on the right have labeled The Lincoln Project a Democratic group whose members are using the PAC to bankroll their own careers as political consultants.

Nathan Brand, a spokesman for the NRSC, also refuted The Lincoln Project’s ties to Republicans saying the group was funded by liberals with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This Democrat scam PAC is run by ethically challenged and shady grifters who are backed by liberal billionaires,” Brand said Tuesday. “Like the candidate they seek to help, Democrat Sara Gideon, this PAC has struggled with rampant hypocrisy, unethical behavior and ties to foreign governments.”

Brand also pointed to Collins’ reputation in Washington, D.C., as a moderate who works both sides of the aisle.

“Mainers know that Senator Susan Collins is the most bipartisan member of the U.S. Senate, and her leadership has helped deliver for Maine,” he said.


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