A conservative group is running a campaign in Arizona aimed at pressuring moderate Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema into voting against the massive Democrat-backed voting bill called S.1 that's before the Senate.
Heritage Action, which is associated with the right-leaning think tank Heritage Foundation, will spend $750,000 on television ads in Arizona asking voters to call Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., to vote against the bill.
Sinema -- along with every other Democrat in the Senate except for Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. -- is a co-sponsor of the legislation. But she's staked out ground in recent years as one of the more moderate Democrats in the Senate, including by supporting the legislative filibuster, which Democrats will almost certainly need to eliminate in order to pass the bill.
"Remember when every TV ad was from a politician? Now Democrats want taxpayer-funded political ads," says The Heritage Action ad, which will hit the airwaves Thursday and was first obtained by Fox News. "Democrats also want to register illegal aliens and let people vote without an ID. That means fraud. It's a partisan power grab, and it's wrong."
Democrats pushed back on assertions that S.1 would allow for taxpayer-funded ads in a Senate hearing on Wednesday as well as that the bill would register illegal aliens.
"[W]e may hear about taxpayer funding of campaigns – despite the fact that this bill includes a provision stating explicitly that no taxpayer money should be used to fund campaigns," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a rare committee appearance, said a loophole on transfer payments in the bill would end up directing taxpayer money to campaigns.
"Don’t be kidded into thinking there’s no federal money in this bill, transfer payments that would go directly to fund political campaigns," McConnell said Wednesday. "Taxpayer-funded bumper stickers and attack ads. What a great idea. American people are really going to like that. Taking their money and spending it on attack ads and bumper stickers, buttons, and balloons."
Heritage Action Executive Director Jessica Anderson slammed S.1 with the nickname "Corrupt Politicians Act" in a statement to Fox News. The bill's official name is the For the People Act.
"S. 1, the Corrupt Politicians Act, undermines basic voter protections and enriches the Washington Swamp," she said. "The bill would force American taxpayers to fund career politicians’ campaigns, force states to allow paid political operatives to engage in vote trafficking, and cancel state voting laws in Arizona and elsewhere. Common-sense Arizonans oppose the measures included in the Corrupt Politicians Act, and Heritage Action is making sure they let Senator Kelly and Senator Sinema know exactly how they feel."
The campaign from Heritage Action follows other efforts it's supported in West Virginia to pressure Manchin to vote against the bill. And the group told Fox News it's sent 280,000 text messages nationally asking people to call their representatives in opposition of the bill -- and that activists associated with the group have sent 300,000 peer-to-peer texts.
If either Manchin or Sinema opposes S.1 -- or if they refuse to get rid of the filibuster to pass it -- then the bill will not be able to pass in the face of what is likely to be unanimous Republican opposition.
Republicans outside of Congress have slammed S.1, and its House companion H.R.1 as well.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose in an interview with Fox News Wednesday slammed the bill as "crisis opportunism" on behalf of Democrats.
"They are using the justification of the 2020 experience -- pandemic and challenges that some states had -- as an excuse to push through on a completely party-line vote, a list of agenda items that they've wanted to do for a long time," LaRose said. He added that as Americans learn more about the bill in the hearing Wednesday they will "start to realize that it is a left-wing activist dream list."
But Democrats say S.1 is a critical civil rights bill needed to protect Americans' right to vote in the face of GOP-controlled state legislatures that have introduced bills to tighten voting restrictions.
"Our move to equality, our move to fairness has been inexorable. But it didn't happen on its own, it took mighty movements and decades of fraught" political fights, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also making a rare committee appearance Wednesday, said. "I would like to ask my Republican colleagues, why are you so afraid of democracy?"