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

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

Poliquin’s campaign on Wednesday defended the incumbent freshman congressman against the attacks and refuted the ad’s labeling of him as a “Wall Street banker,” though he spent years working in pension investment management for a New York City financial firm and before that worked at a bank in Chicago.

“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, is running a close race against Democrat Emily Cain and was leading Cain by 10 percentage points in a recent poll by the Maine Sunday Telegram and University of New Hampshire.

But Democrats nationally also have targeted the race, contributing to an influx of outside spending and national attention as the parties battle for control of Congress. Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported late last month that Trump is pushing a new $140 million television and digital ad campaign across 13 states — including Maine, in the hopes of winning the 2nd District’s electoral vote.

The new Maine ad by VoteVets features retired Army Maj. Gen. Donald E. Edwards, a former Democratic lawmaker from Vermont, telling voters to “look around northern Maine,” highlighting 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 for 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.

A still image from a new ad by the VoteVets political action committee that targets U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District.

A still image from a new ad by the VoteVets political action committee that targets U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District.

“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.”

Byerly, in his email Wednesday, pointed out that while the appropriations bill did not fully meet the president’s request, it did represent an increase over previous years as well as called for transparency and reforms, such as ending construction delays that have contributed to increased costs.

He also said Poliquin voted for a $73.5 billion increase in funding for the VA in the most recent appropriations bill.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 that Poliquin 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 for the shortfall in the 2015 VA spending bill.

“We need to hold accountable politicians that short-fund 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 funding that also has 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 more than 64,000 veterans live 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. “Talking points and band-aids for the VA mean nothing if they’re not backed up by the resources our veterans need,” she said in an email Wednesday. “In Congress I’ll vote to fully fund the VA and fight to hold it accountable.”

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,” Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett said Monday in a news release. “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.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

 

 

 

 

 


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