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Groups Sues IRS Over Targeting, as McConnell Releases Ad on Same Issue

official photo, public domain

A new online advertisement from U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign focuses on the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS—an issue the campaign says it's not going to let slip out of the public discourse.

The nearly three minute ad uses speeches from McConnell on the IRS issue before it became a national controversy, as well as media reports and testimony from IRS officials to Congress. 

It also includes a sound bite from former President Richard Nixon speaking in an interview he did on the Watergate scandal during his term as president—a comparison between Nixon and President Barack Obama.

In an interview, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said that neither the senator nor his campaign will allow the IRS targeting to stray too far away from the 24/7 news cycle nationally or in Kentucky. 

"This is very important, that we get answers, that we get to the very bottom of this," Benton said. "And we set a very clear example and clear standard that people of various political backgrounds and stripes can come together and say "we're never going to accept this ever again."

So far, McConnell's campaign has released only one TV ad in response to attacks from a liberal group called Progress Kentucky.

Benton said the web ads are having the same effect that a TV ad would have—especially one release 18 months before election day—without the significant costs for broadcast time.

"We are in many ways moving past the need to just (have) massive dollars buys on TV," Benton said. "We're going to be very aggressive on the traditional airwaves but what we're able to do in the digital space is very exciting." 

The Kentucky 9/12 Project is the only Kentucky group to acknowledge that they were targeted by the IRS in 2012 for their decision to register as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The group joined others in suing in the IRS and the federal government in a lawsuit filed today by the American Center for Law and Justice.

Though Kentucky 9/12 is the only targeted group, Kentucky Tea Party groups have endeavored to keep the issues in the public's mind. Tea Party groups recently rallied at IRS offices in the state.

The McConnell campaign's previous web ads focused more on the senator or on his ability to block key parts of Obama's agenda as president,  with themes such as the "American Ideal." They also ridiculed Democratic efforts to recruit a candidate to run against McConnell. 

But Benton reiterated that the McConnell campaign will press the IRS scandal well into the future.

"It happens, we think, to be a very good campaign issue but it's so much more than that," Benton said. "It's a critical issue for the American people and its something Senator McConnell feels very passionate about and will continue to pursue."

The ad was made by Lucas Baiano, who is a rising star for his political ads and who has made other web ads for McConnell's campaign.

Kenny Colston is the Frankfort Bureau Chief for Kentucky Public Radio (a collaborative effort of public radio stations in Kentucky). Colston has covered Kentucky's Capitol and state government since 2010. He is a Louisville native, and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. When he's not tracking down stories about Kentucky politics, you can often find him watching college sports, particularly football.
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