GOP Congressmen Face Social Security Ad Blitz from Conservative Group

The conservative Club for Growth released new television ads Friday designed to pressure three moderate-to-liberal Republicans to support President Bush’s idea for reforming Social Security with personal retirement accounts.

The ads will begin airing next week in the districts of Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.-R.I.) and Representatives Sherwood Boehlert (R.-N.Y.) and Joe Schwarz (R.-Mich.). Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, a former member of Congress himself, said the three have made public comments suggesting their reluctance to support personal accounts.

“We see them as persuadable, and we intend to persuade them,” Toomey said.

The three members targeted by the Club for Growth are each up for re-election in 2006, and might face a GOP primary opponent, perhaps with the backing of Toomey and his organization. He declined to speculate Friday on that possibility.

“It has not escaped our attention that each of these candidates faces re-election and could conceivably face tough primaries,” Toomey said. “But our mission is to persuade them to vote the right way and be strong advocates for something that’s very good for their districts, their state, and the American people. And what we do in the primaries is a decision we haven’t made yet. It’s too early in the cycle.”

Toomey ran as a conservative in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary last year against liberal Sen. Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.). He came within 17,000 votes of upsetting the venerable incumbent–helped along the way by the Club for Growth, which paid for ads exposing Specter’s liberal tendencies.

The Club for Growth’s Social Security ads portray ordinary young Americans, and suggest that without reform today, the public retirement system will go bankrupt and be unable to pay out the benefits promised to young workers.

The entire campaign will cost $10 million, and Toomey said it would likely be expanded beyond the three districts once more members of Congress voice their opinions about the President’s ideas. Toomey said the Club for Growth would also hire a lobbyist because he is legally barred from communicating with members of Congress until one year passes from his congressional departure last month. For that reason, he said he hadn’t spoken with Chafee, Boehlert, or Schwarz prior to the creation of the ads.