Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley says the “single-biggest threat to Democracy” is the influence of anonymous donations to secretive groups that are bankrolling advertising campaigns in his race and in others across the country.
“The biggest issue that’s facing voters in the first district is secret donors from outside the state of Iowa who are trying to buy this election for Ben Lange,” Braley says.
Lange is the Republican challenging Braley this fall. The Iowa-based American Future Fund is running $800,000 worth of advertising attacking Braley’s votes on health care reform and on other issues. Lange says he is forbidden, by law, from coordinating with the American Future Fund, a group formed under special rules which allow it to avoid disclosing its donors.
“What I will continue to do is talk about the issues,” Lange says. “My opponent doesn’t want to talk about the issues and I’ve said this is about the issues. This is about his voting record.”
Braley says the American Future Fund is so secretive, its office address is just a post office box in a Des Moines strip mall.
“Voters in the first district should be asking themselves, ‘Why are these secret donors, Ben’s secret donors, doing so much to get rid of me?’” Braley asks rhetorically. “‘Is it because I stand up to powerful special interests every day?’”
Lange says the actions of the American Future Fund are a non-issue for voters.
“He comes to the district and continues to support cap and trade, bailout, stimulus, ObamaCare — those are the policies that have people upset and that’s what people want to talk about,” Lange says. “And this issue that my opponent continues to bring up is not what eastern Iowans are concerned about.”
The two candidates made their comments Friday during a joint appearance on the “Iowa Press” program on Iowa Public Television. The two men differed on many issues, notably health care reform which Braley touted and Lange promised to repeal.
American Future Fund spokesman Nick Ryan issued a written response to Braley’s comments. “The single biggest threat to democracy are politicians like Bruce Braley who vote against the will of the people they represent,” Ryan said.
Braley’s campaign staff released a video Friday afternoon showing Braley’s attempt to visit the American Future Fund office in Des Moines. The video shows Braley visiting a business in a strip mall.
“Is this 4225 Fleur Drive?” Braley asked as he entered the business, adding that he was looking for Suite 142.
“So if somebody would want to contact somebody at that address, all they would get is a mailbox?” Braley asked the woman behind the counter.
Braley closes the video by saying: “We don’t know where these secret donors are that are supporting Ben Lange, but they’re obviously not at the UPS Store.”
Ryan, the American Future Fund’s spokeman and founder, is a long-time fixture in Iowa politics. He ran Jim Nussle’s 2006 campaign for governor. “I feel bad for Bruce that he can’t seem to figure out who I am or who the American Future Fund is,” Ryan said in a written statement. “I grew up in Strawberry Point — right in the middle of his district.”
According to a report this week in The Boston Globe, the American Future Fund has already spent $7.5 million in at least 20 different congressional races throughout the country. The American Future Fund’s PAC has endorsed Lange and given him a $5000 donation.