Democratic group spending $660K on anti-Issa, pro-Applegate a

Joshua Stewart

A political action committee that supports Democrats running for Congress is spending $660,000 on an advertisement that attacks Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, and boosts challenger Doug Applegate.

The ad, “Country First,” comes from the House Majority PAC, an organization that says it’s dedicated to “holding Republicans accountable and helping Democrats win seats in the House.”

The new commercial, much like an ad from Applegate’s own campaign, uses newspaper reports about Issa’s real estate holdings to attack the incumbent.

“Congressman Issa, exposed for securing millions of taxpayer dollars to benefit his own business, making a rich man even richer,” the new ad says.

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The commercial uses a quote from a 2011 New York Times article that Applegate’s campaign has referenced in one of its own commercials. Issa’s lawyers earlier said his challenger’s ad was defamatory and they threatened to sue Applegate. Issa disputed the original Times article.

Later, the new 30-second spot praises Applegate.

“We need Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel with a combat tour in Iraq. He’s tough enough to take on the mess in Washington,” the narrator says, as pictures of Applegate in military camouflage and battle gear are displayed.

It’s the first time that any advertisement in the race promotes Applegate. Past commercials from the Democrat’s own campaign and the party’s congressional campaign committee have attacked Issa but have not introduced voters to the political newcomer.

Issa’s campaign said that the advertisement is an attempt by Rep. Nancy Pelosi to distract from temporary restraining orders Applegate’s ex-wife obtained against him in 2002 and 2004 without taking about the Democrat’s policies.

Applegate’s ex-wife and his children have all released statements criticizing Issa’s campaign for using their family and the divorce in his campaign.

“Funny how the even Nancy Pelosi's superPAC is too afraid to mention any of Doug Applegate's positions on the issues,” Issa campaign spokesman Calvin Moore said.

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Issa has long contested the accuracy of the New York Times article cited, and after its publication issued a press release asking for 13 corrections in the report. The newspaper corrected three errors — including one caused by inaccurate information in Issa’s foundation’s IRS records and another from bad information from the county assessor — but the article’s central premise that Issa personally benefited from his official actions in Congress remained.

The article Issa disputes says, in part, that the congressman “has secured millions of dollars in Congressional earmarks for road work and public works projects that promise improved traffic and other benefits to the many commercial properties he owns here north of San Diego. In one case, more than $800,000 in earmarks he arranged will help widen a busy thoroughfare in front of a medical plaza he bought for $16.6 million.”

Issa sold the property in January 2012 at a $1.6 million loss and the earmarked funds were not spent on the road project.

The House Majority PAC focuses on key campaigns around the country and had received $33.6 million in contributions this election cycle and spent $17.8 million by the end of September, election finance reports show.

The new House Majority PAC commercial uses B-roll video that Applegate’s campaign uploaded onto his YouTube channel, a move that’s sometimes used by candidates to allow outside organizations to use footage of the candidate without violating regulations that prevent them from coordinating with outside groups.

In a news release House Majority PAC said the ad will begin airing on Friday in the San Diego media market. The 49th district includes northern portions of San Diego County as well as southern parts of coastal Orange County.

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This is the second organization to provide advertising support for Applegate and follows $540,000 in spending from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Issa’s campaign has accused Applegate of “hypocrisy” for saying he wants to get big money out of politics but then benefits from a commercial by the DCCC.

Issa, a 16 year incumbent and the richest member of Congress, had $3.05 million in his campaign account as of the end of September, more than 18 times as much as Applegate, a first-time candidate.

Twitter: @jptstewart

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