Democratic super PAC launches $1 million ad campaign for Ernst challenger Theresa Greenfield

Theresa Greenfield –Twitter photo

The Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC working to elect Democrats and closely allied with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, launched a $1 million advertising campaign on Tuesday on behalf of Theresa Greenfield.

Greenfield, the president of a real estate firm in the Des Moines suburb of Windsor Heights, is one of five Democrats running for their party’s nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Joni Ernst in the 2020 general election.

The advertising campaign will consist of running a 31-second video titled “Tough,” both online and on television. The video recounts the challenges Greenfield has overcome in her life, concluding “all of it makes Theresa tough enough to take on Washington’s corruption and deliver for Iowa.”

It’s basically a shorter version of Greenfield’s own “Worth Fighting For,” the almost three-minute-long video she released in June to announce her candidacy, although “Tough” doesn’t reference castration. (“Worth Fighting For” shows a clip of Ernst’s 2014 “Make ’em Squeal” commercial, before cutting to Greenfield standing next to a hog pen as she says, “Listen, folks, she didn’t castrate anyone. She cast her vote to let the corporate lobbyists keep feasting, like hogs at the trough.”)

It’s no surprise that Senate Majority PAC is promoting Greenfield. She was endorsed by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee three days after she announced her candidacy on June 3, even though there were already two other Democrats, Kimberly Graham and Eddie Mauro, in the race.

“We don’t need a primary,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said about the Iowa Senate race, Time magazine reported in June.

National Democrats were reportedly impressed by Greenfield during her short-lived 2018 primary campaign in the race for congress in the Iowa’s 3rd District, even though she failed to make the primary ballot. Greenfield withdrew the candidate’s petition needed to appear on the ballot after she discovered her campaign manager had forged names on the petition. She fired her campaign manager and tried, but failed, to collect enough signatures on a new petition before the deadline.

Another Democrat, Cindy Axne, went on to win that race.

A spokesperson for the Senate Majority PAC told CNN they believe Iowans will be “energized by Theresa’s story and her grit.”

The PAC, which was founded in 2010, “raised $61 million in 2019 and entered the new year with $47 million, both record-setting amounts for a non-election year,” the Washington Post reported in January.

Greenfield also set a record with her fundraising in the fourth quarter of 2019. Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, she raised over $1.6 million, which is more than any challenger in a Senate race has ever raised in a single quarter in Iowa history. Her campaign finished 2019 with $2.1 million in cash-on-hand.

Greenfield’s fellow Democrats didn’t come close to those totals in their fourth quarter fundraising.

Mauro, the owner of a commercial insurance business, reported raised $1,555,489, but $1.5 million of that amount came from a personal loan Mauro made to his campaign.

Retired Navy Admiral Michael Franken raised more than $183,000, an amount that includes a $50,000 personal loan.

Attorney Kimberly Graham did not file a Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure form for the fourth quarter of 2019. In a statement to Iowa Starting Line last month, the campaign said, “our FEC compliance person did not file our 2019 Q4 report with the FEC. We do not yet know why this occurred.” The campaign added it was hiring a new person to handle FEC compliance.

Cal Woods, a former reporter for WHO-TV in Des Moines, does not appear to have filed any paperwork with the FEC since submitting his statement of candidacy in August.

Sen. Ernst, on the other hand, raised slightly more than Greenfield in the final quarter of 2019 — $1.7 million — and finished the year with $4.9 million in cash-on-hand.

Ernst’s reelection effort is also being supported by outside groups, including Iowa Values, a dark money group. (A dark money group is a political nonprofit that does not disclose its donors. The Senate Majority PAC does disclose the identities of its donors.) Iowa Values’ executive director is Derek Flowers, who was Ernst’s campaign manager in 2014.

To qualify for its tax-exempt status, Iowa Values is supposed to be engaged in nonpolitical activities in addition to advocating for various public policies, but there’s little evidence of the group doing anything other than supporting Ernst.

Tax-exempt groups are also required by federal law to avoid coordinating their activities with political candidates. But in December, the Associated Press reported the Ernst campaign has been “in close concert with Iowa Values” in ways that violate “the spirit of campaign finance and tax law, if not the letter of it.”

The Ernst campaign rejected the idea it was coordinating activities with Iowa Values, calling the AP report “fake news.”

Following that report, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC regarding the relationship between Iowa Values and the Ernst campaign. The FEC has not taken action on the complaint yet.

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