A super PAC mailer hitting homes this week for the Indiana Senate race has rankled the very person the candidates are trying to replace.
Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), who lost his primary earlier this year to tea party-backed candidate Richard Mourdock, blasted the mailer on Wednesday for claiming he now supports his former opponent. His office released a statement calling the ad “misleading.”
“During the primary, Mourdock and his supporters perpetuated misleading statements about Sen. Lugar,” the statement said. “Unfortunately that has continued with this mailer funded by a committee that spent over $100,000 to defeat Sen. Lugar. It was clearly unauthorized and done without consultation with us.”
The statement went on to say Lugar has no plans to campaign for Mourdock.
The mailer, which was first reported by the Howey Politics Indiana website, was distributed by USA Super PAC, a group supporting Mourdock. In bold, capital letters, the front of the mailer read, “Indiana’s Lugar Backs Mourdock In Senate Run” and showed a photo of one person passing a torch to another.
The ad pointed voters to a posting on the conservative website Human Events that quoted Lugar’s concession speech after the primary.
In those remarks, Lugar said that he intends to vote for Mourdock in November for the express purpose of helping his “friend” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) become the body’s Majority Leader. But in a subsequent statement released the same night, Lugar expressed concern about the tea party insurgent who had just defeated him, suggesting that Mourdock’s stubbornness won’t end the gridlock on Capitol Hill.
“If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington,” Lugar said at the time.
Jim Bopp, the Terre Haute, Ind. attorney who founded USA Super PAC, defended the mailer in an interview with TPM on Wednesday. He said he was unaware Lugar’s office had cried foul, but he had a list of phone messages from local news reporters who wanted to talk to him about the mailer.
“There’s nothing in [Lugar’s] statement that contradicts or is in variance to what we said in the mailer,” Bopp said. “We did not say in the mailer that we consulted with Lugar or that it was authorized by him. In fact, this is an independent expenditure and was not authorized by any candidate or any candidate’s committee. And that’s said on the mailer. Furthermore, we never said in the mailer that Lugar is campaigning for Mourdock. What we’re referring to is a statement Lugar made the night of the election, which is that he hoped Mourdock would win so that his friend Mitch McConnell would become majority leader.”
Bopp added that he has supported Lugar in previous elections, noting that his organization did not employ negative tactics during the primary campaign.
“Our PAC was not at all critical of Lugar,” Bopp said. “We did only positive mail pieces supporting Mourdock and pointing out Mourdock’s position. We were not the least bit critical of Sen. Lugar.”
The battle that culminated with Mourdock’s win last spring clearly created divisions in Hoosier State politics. Bopp was ousted as Indiana’s Republican National Committeeman in June because, as he put it, Lugar supporters “wanted pay back.” And even months after going down in the primary, Lugar’s presence in the general election race remains large. Rep. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic candidate, has made an ongoing effort to capitalize on lingering resentment toward Mourdock from the more centrist Lugar backers.
Elizabeth Shappell, Donnelly’s communications director, told TPM in an email that Lugar “should be respected.” Donnelly made a similar appeal in a debate Monday in Indianapolis, when he called out Mourdock for his claim that Lugar had “betrayed conservatives.”
To that end, Bopp said his mailer was partly a response to Donnelly’s embrace of Lugar.
“We think it’s important that voters be reminded of that because the Joe Donnelly campaign is trying to mislead voters into thinking that Sen. Lugar supports him, and that’s not true,” Bopp said.
See the mailer:
Tom Kludt is a newswriter for TPM. A former research intern and polling fellow for TPM, he lives and works in New York City. Tom graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Dakota in May of 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. He can be reached at Tom (at) talkingpointsmemo.com.