A new $500,000 ad buy unveiled Wednesday by a national group advocating veterans’ interests describes U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin as a “Wall Street banker” and takes aim at him for failing to support $1 billion in veterans affairs spending during his first term in Congress.

The ad, part of a multimillion-dollar campaign by the VoteVets political action committee also targeting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, will hit Maine TV broadcast and cable markets Wednesday and run for three weeks. It follows remarks made by Trump suggesting that veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder are not strong.

Poliquin’s campaign on Wednesday defended the first-term congressman against the attacks.

“Congressman Bruce Poliquin has always voted to support our Maine veterans,” said Michael Byerly, press secretary for Poliquin, in an email responding to the ad. “That’s why he worked to extend the ARCH program, increase funding by 5.6 percent for our troops, veterans and their families, and is working to ensure our members of the military can have good-paying jobs when they return to civilian life. To say anything else is simply untrue.”

Poliquin, R-2nd District, was leading Democratic challenger Emily Cain by 10 percentage points in a recent poll by the Maine Sunday Telegram and University of New Hampshire.

Democrats nationally have also targeted the race, contributing to an influx of outside spending and national attention as the parties battle for control of Congress.


The new Maine ad by VoteVets features retired Army Maj. Gen. Donald E. Edwards telling voters to “look around northern Maine,” naming teachers and lobstermen, as well as veterans, as groups that are at odds with Poliquin’s support for “huge tax breaks” for Wall Street. The ad specifically takes aim at Poliquin for voting in 2015 against an appropriations bill that fell about $1 billion shy of the amount President Barack Obama had asked for in his budget request for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Byerly, in his email Wednesday, pointed out that since then Poliquin voted to support a 5 percent increase in funding for the VA in the most recent appropriations bill, which he said also called for transparency and reforms, such as ending construction delays that have contributed to increased costs.

“Poliquin says he wants to help veterans, but his words when you really dig into it and his votes during his time in Congress, which hasn’t been very long, haven’t been consistent,” Jonathan Soltz, co-founder and chairman of VoteVets, said in an interview. “The president is working hard to correct problems at the VA and he needs a Congress that is willing to play a part in it.”

Last week, Poliquin’s office reported on at least two items he has been behind to support veterans, including a push to improve the Veterans Crisis Line and ensure that no calls to the national hotline go unanswered; and the introduction of a new bill that would force the approval of a lease for a major expansion at the Portland VA health clinic and other VA facilities around the country. Byerly said Wednesday he has been working “tirelessly” on behalf of veterans, including the introduction in March of legislation that would extend Project ARCH, a program aimed at connecting veterans in rural areas to services closer to home.

Soltz said support for those types of programs are hypocritical in light of Poliquin’s vote against the 2015 VA spending bill.

“We need to hold accountable politicians that shortfund the administration getting what they need,” he said. “We need to send a clear message to people in Congress that if you vote against $1 billion for veterans you’re going to lose your seat over it.”


Soltz, a two-tour Iraq War veteran, said the Maine ad is part of a $9 million spending package the organization is running that has also targeted other members of Congress as well as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. The package does not include spending against any Democratic candidates, though in the past the organization has given money to Republicans. Its website says VoteVets PAC is progressive but “has endorsed both Democrats and Republicans.”

Soltz said the organization decided to spend a large part of its ad money to run the 2nd District ad based on the district’s large number of veterans, the anticipated closeness of the race and Poliquin’s voting record, which Soltz said “is hypocritical in his support for veterans.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are more than 64,000 veterans currently living in Maine’s 2nd District.

In May, Cain also criticized Poliquin for his vote in support of the $1 billion shortfall after a social media post deriding wait times faced by veterans.

Meanwhile, Trump’s recent statement about PTSD drew criticism from the Maine Democratic Party toward the presidential candidate as well as Poliquin, who has refused to comment on Trump or say whether he supports the party nominee.

“In yet another display of cowardice, Congressman Poliquin has nothing to say when Maine veterans and their families are disrespected by a man who wants to run this country,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett in a press release Monday. “Trump’s remarks are consistent with his long history of disparaging our military – from lashing out at a Gold Star family to suggesting that Senator John McCain is not a war hero. Bruce Poliquin should look directly into the eyes of Maine veterans and tell them whether he thinks a man who insults their service should be our next Commander-in-Chief.”

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