Republican lawmakers, bruised by a failed effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, are now turning their focus to tax reform, and they’ll be getting a multi-million dollar boost from American Action Network, a major outside group aligned with House leadership.
The organization expects to spend as much as $20 million on a pro-tax reform effort dubbed the "Middle Class Growth Initiative," AAN told McClatchy. The program will promote tax cuts for "working families and small businesses," as well as a reformed tax code "that will be simpler, fairer and pro-growth," according to the organization.
As part of the effort, AAN is pledging to spend $5 million in August alone, and is kicking off the initiative with a $1 million member-specific radio ad buy slated to run in 34 congressional districts, from Rep. Carlos Curbelo's Miami-area district to Rep. Mark Meadows' North Carolina seat to Rep. David Valadao's in California's Central Valley.
"There's a lot we can learn from the health care debate," said Kevin Madden, a veteran Republican operative who is coming on board as an adviser to the effort. "In order for tax reform to reach a successful result, we really do need this broader effort of advocates or people who are supportive of tax reform to really make the case relentlessly, methodically, around the country."
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Certainly, there were ads run around the country touting versions of the Obamacare repeal bills as well, but a criticism of the broader Republican health care effort was that there wasn't a sustained, consistent case made to the American people about why the Republican plans were an improvement over the status quo, especially not from President Donald Trump.
American Action Network, for its part, is seeking to offer a comprehensive message on tax reform through radio, television, mail and digital ad buys, and through organizing at a grassroots level, ensuring that pro-tax reform advocates are at events, such as town halls over the August recess, and helping to facilitate activities like op-eds in local papers from community leaders and other politically prominent figures. The project has a hashtag: #GrowthForAll.
"You have to go out and really have this conversation with voters where they live all across the country, make the case, build a symphony of support," Madden said. "There's going to be many in the business community who talk about their support of tax reform. How is it we also connect it to the debate people are having about the local economy, how it affects them, right where they live? It's something we're very keen on doing."
The initial targeted district list includes a mix of those held by members in leadership, Freedom Caucus members and those in competitive districts, all seen as key figures in the fights to come over tax reform, and they will be receiving positive messages thanking them for their efforts so far and urging them to continue their work.
But, warned AAN executive director Corry Bliss: "That certainly does not prevent us in the future from running ads against people who are not constructive in this conversation," or potentially in bipartisan fashion to thank Democrats who are supportive of House Speaker Paul Ryan's efforts on the issue as well.
"We want members of Congress to know that they need to keep their promise to continue to do the hard things they were elected to do," Bliss said. "If they do it," he continued, "American Action Network will have their back."