American Unity PAC, the group founded by Paul Singer to encourage Republican candidates to take pro-equality stances, announced an investment of $500,000 to help Richard Tisei in the competitive race against Congressman John Tierney in the 6th District in Massachusetts.
The independent expenditure effort consists of $440,000 in cable and broadcast TV advertising, and $70,000 in online advertising, for an exact total of $510,000. American Unity PAC released "Reasons," the first of two TV ads in the series, on Wednesday. The 30-second spot positions Tisei as an "independent-minded problem solver" capable of working with Democrats to serve his constituents in the district north of Boston.
The former state senator could become the first nonincumbent openly gay Republican elected to Congress, and the first Republican elected to represent Massachusetts in the House in nearly 20 years. He supports LGBT civil rights legislation including repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, but the new ad does not mention LGBT issues or his sexual orientation.
Margaret Hoover, an adviser to American Unity PAC, told The Advocate the group tailors advertisements to voters' concerns. A similar approach has been adopted in ads for representatives Judy Biggert of Illinois and Mary Bono-Mack of California that are also funded by the PAC. A little over $500,000 has been spent in Biggert's race, and just over $200,000 has been directed to Bono-Mack.
"We polled the district about what is important to the constituents, and gay rights are not even in the top five of the things they're voting on," said Hoover about the Tisei contest. "We're trying to cater the messaging and create a compelling narrative about each race in a way that is relevant to each district."
American Unity PAC launched this past summer with $1 million from Singer, the hedge fund billionaire who has contributed at least $10 million to LGBT rights initiatives in the past decade, including the passage of marriage equality legislation in New York last year, this year's successful effort to defeat a repeal attempt in New Hampshire, and other states' campaigns. He is also a major donor to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Recent polling and fund-raising reports suggest Tisei holds an edge over Tierney, an eight-term Democratic incumbent perceived as highly vulnerable because of the continued spotlight on an illegal gambling ring operated by his brothers-in-law. Tisei outraised him for the fourth consecutive financial quarter, according to The Boston Globe, and this week The Rothenberg Political Report switched the race from "toss-up" to "lean Republican" in the solidly Democratic state.
Tierney and his allies have attempted to portray Tisei, who was selected for the "Young Guns" program of the National Republican Congressional Committee, as a potential foot soldier for conservative House Republicans. Tisei in turn has put distance between himself and the top of his party's ticket.
The House majority leadership has spent $1.5 million to defend DOMA from court challenges, it was reported this week. Hoover said that electing Tisei could help to change the climate on Capitol Hill, where only one Republican, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, supports DOMA repeal.
"The idea of American Unity PAC is for the long term," she said. "One person alone can't do it. Two people alone can't do it. It is important to grow a majority of Republicans in Congress who can help change the gravitational pull.
Hoover said the PAC factored the uniqueness of his prospects as an openly gay Republican member into the decision to help Tisei. He holds the most advanced pro-equality positions among representatives Biggert, Bono-Mack, and Richard Hanna of New York, whom American Unity PAC also plans to aid. All three incumbents have variously supported measures such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, hate-crimes legislation, and "don't ask, don't tell" repeal, and opposed amendments to affirm DOMA.
American Unity PAC group has spent about $1.2 million so far, with the expectation that it will get involved in more races in the coming weeks. The PAC currently has around $1.7 million on hand.
Watch the Tisei ad from American Unity PAC below.