Apr 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Rep. Summer Lee hammers GOP donor's links to attack ads

Rep. Summer Lee, wearing a tan overcoat and tan sweater, speaks at microphones surrounded by progressive colleagues.

Rep. Summer Lee. Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images.

Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) is responding to attack ads against her with her own ad highlighting a GOP megadonor's connections to the PAC behind the spots, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Lee is one of a handful of progressive "Squad" members facing credible primary threats from more moderate, pro-Israel opponents seizing on their criticism of Israel's government over the war in Gaza.

Driving the news: A 30-second spot from the Lee campaign starts off with supporter Kenny Mostern accusing "Republican-funded super PACs" of "lying about her again."

  • The rest of the ad emphasizes Lee's support for abortion and entitlement funding, her rhetorical sparring with GOP hardliners and earmarks she secured steering federal funding to her district.

The backdrop: Moderate PAC, a centrist group that has begun targeting progressive members of Congress, launched an ad buy against Lee last week accusing her of "opposing President Biden."

  • The group's president, Ty Strong, told Politico that Jeffrey Yass, a billionaire who has donated tens of millions to GOP campaigns, has given money to his group.
  • "He's a really wealthy guy, so he made a donation in line with his wealth," Strong said of Yass, adding that he is "obviously painted a certain way in the media" and "he's a libertarian, but he's also free market ... He does like certain Democrats."

State of play: Lee, a first-term House member, is facing a challenge from Bhavani Patel, a former local legislator who has attacked Lee for her steadfast criticism of Israel.

  • Moderate PAC's latest ad took aim at Lee for joining with other pro-Palestinian progressives in declining to join several standing ovations and rounds of applause for President Biden at his State of the Union last month.
  • "Representative Summer Lee is opposing President Biden," the ad asserted. "We need a representative who will work with Biden."

The other side: Strong told Axios, "We are not a Republican funded PAC. We are a Democrat PAC that supports President Joe Biden.

  • "We have donations from Union workers in Western Pennsylvania ... Steamfitters, Sheet Metal workers, and laborers.
  • "Summer Lee calls everyone who doesn't agree with her a racist or a Republican."
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