May 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Mandel super PAC pivots to attacking Dr. Oz

A screenshot from an ad attacking Dr. Mehmet Oz for "glorifying transgender kids."
Screenshot from the ad "The Real Dr. Oz." Photo: YouTube

A day after Ohio Republican Josh Mandel's Senate primary loss on Tuesday, a super PAC that put millions behind his candidacy trained its sights on a new target: Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz.

Why it matters: The USA Freedom Fund’s quick pivot signals a new cash infusion in the Pennsylvania contest, which is already poised to break spending records.

  • It also shows how vicious the race could get in the final two-week stretch before Pennsylvania Republicans select a Senate nominee.

What's happening: The super PAC began running digital ads on Wednesday promoting a 30-second spot attacking Oz and puts transgender children at the center of that attack.

  • "Dr. Oz uses his nationally televised show to glorify transgender kids," the ad declared alongside a caption asking, "Can we really trust Dr. Oz to protect our kids?"

Between the lines: The USA Freedom Fund is bringing a sizable war chest to the Keystone State.

  • It raised about $3.6 million from October 2021 to March of this year, according to Federal Election Commission records. The super PAC has likely brought in substantially more in the two months since.
  • The super PAC was the vanguard of Mandel's independent expenditure support, which, along with the conservative Club for Growth, dropped huge sums promoting him and attacking primary rivals, chiefly J.D. Vance, the eventual winner.

The intrigue: Mandel and David McCormick, Oz's top primary opponent, share a general consultant: the powerhouse Republican firm Axiom Strategies.

  • An ad-buying division of the firm called Armada Strategies has also purchased ads for the USA Freedom Fund.
  • Axiom has said it has internal firewalls in place to ensure its work for candidates and super PACs supporting them do not run afoul of laws barring coordination between the two.
  • A spokesperson for the firm did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

During the Ohio race, the USA Freedom Fund was largely funded by the Club for Growth, which feuded with Donald Trump and his allies over its attacks on Vance, Trump's pick in the race.

  • The USA Freedom Fund is now attacking another Trump endorsee in Oz.
  • Club spokesperson Joe Kildea said the organization has nothing to do with the USA Freedom Fund's new anti-Oz effort.
  • "Club for Growth Action did not fund this PA effort in any way and we had no knowledge that they were running it," Kildea told Axios in an email.
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