A conservative fundraising group has released television ads attacking four Minnesota Democrats running for Congress, saying they "should be ashamed" of standing by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison after he was accused of domestic violence.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that is trying to elect Republican candidates, created the ads that target four Minnesota candidates for U.S. House, as well as Ellison, who is running for Minnesota attorney general. Ellison has repeatedly denied the abuse allegation.
"The National Organization for Women is calling for Ellison to end his campaign. But Dean Phillips is standing by Keith Ellison. Backing Ellison instead of believing his victim? ... Dean Phillips should be ashamed," the commercials say.
Other versions of the ad swap out Phillips, who is running in the Third Congressional District, and instead mention First District candidate Dan Feehan, Second District candidate Angie Craig and Eighth District candidate Joe Radinovich. A spokesman for the Congressional Leadership Fund said the ads are part of a six-figure advertising buy and will be airing on television in each of those congressional districts.
Phillips and other Democrats said the allegation by Ellison's former girlfriend is serious and he should withdraw if it is true.
"The allegations against Congressman Ellison are deeply troubling, and if proven true, are disqualifying for anyone seeking public office. Every American must be afforded due process and Congressman Ellison should continue to address this directly with Minnesotans," Phillips said in a statement.
The Phillips campaign also noted the Congressional Leadership Fund's connection with Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and said the group is spending millions on negative television advertising in the Third District during this midterm election.
A super PAC is a kind of political action committee that can raise unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals, and it can spend that money advocating for or against specific candidates — as long as the spending is not coordinated with candidates they benefit. There are no limits on the amount of money super PACs can raise and spend.
The Third District, where Phillips is trying to unseat Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen, is one of many battlegrounds in Minnesota where Democrats are trying to flip control of the U.S. House. Another key fight is in the Eighth District, where Radinovich is facing Republican Pete Stauber.
Radinovich said in a statement Monday that the allegations against Ellison should be fully investigated until all unresolved questions are answered. Craig said in a statement from her campaign that she is "troubled by these allegations" against Ellison; she called for an investigation and said that if true, "this should be disqualifying." Feehan's comment struck similar notes, calling for an investigation but also saying that if proven true, Ellison should resign from Congress and step aside as the DFL's attorney general candidate.
Ellison's campaign referred to his previous comments on the allegation. He has said he is not sure why his ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, and her son say there is a video of Ellison dragging Monahan across a bed by her legs and feet. He said such a video cannot exist because he didn't do that, and he is trying to hold on to voters' support by assuring them that it did not happen. The state's DFL Party endorsed Ellison on Saturday at an executive committee meeting.