“Beware Rhode Island, there is a shark in the water, circling the Ocean State,” says the dramatic female voiceover in the new radio ad funded by Riley for Congress. Who’s the shark? Congressman Jim Langevin, the incumbent Democratic candidate that Republican Michael Riley will face in the November primary. Riley’s ads do not go after independent Abel Collins, who is also on the November ballot, but they do accuse the incumbent of “looking to feast” on taxpayer money.
Riley’s ad campaigns have been coined the “largest media buy in the Second Congressional District’s history,” and, according to a press release, the congressional candidate has spent more than six figures on airtime for his radio and television ads.
The advertisement campaign is called “The 20-million Dollar Congressman,” and the ads say that Langevin has essentially hit the jackpot by being a congressman.
“What politician has received almost $20 million from taxpayers and special interests while in office?” says the voiceover. “You may not even recognize Congressman Langevin; he did the next best thing to winning the lottery – he became a Rhode Island Congressman.”
The ad goes on to ask what Langevin has done with the money, citing high gas prices and high unemployment as evidence that Langevin has “never sponsored and passed a bill to help our struggling economy.”
“Our media campaign will be the beginning of a thorough discussion of Mr. Langevin’s voting record,” said Riley in a statement. “It is necessary for the people of Rhode Island to see exactly how much money Jim Langevin has received and to ask the question, has the investment really paid off?”
Jonathan Dworkin, spokesman for Langevin, said it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Riley campaign would put out such negative ads.
“[The campaign] is pushing the House Republican agenda rather than the priorities of Rhode Islanders,” said Dworkin in a statement. “However, it is stooping to a particularly low level to attack not only the Rhode Islanders who continue to support Jim’s campaign because they believe in him, but also the efforts of Jim’s government staff, which works hard to help Rhode Islanders facing difficult situations.”
Dworkin said prime examples of the work Langevin has done include his efforts to double the rate of submarine production at Electric Boat in Quonset to meet a national security need; helping to establish new job training programs at CCRI in the high-growth fields of health care and IT; and creating the Cyber Challenge, which provides young people with the opportunity to link them with local employers who can provide job experience.
Langevin also co-authored a bipartisan landmark law to assist families caring for an elderly or disabled family member, and the state just received a $250,000 grant to improve its respite care system because of it.
Dworkin said it is Langevin’s Members' Representational Allowance (MRA) that Riley is likening to a lottery win. According to the guidelines for the MRA, only official and representational expenses can be reimbursed, not personal or campaign expenditures.
In a release about the ads, Riley says Langevin has received $2 million in salary during his years in Congress and $6 million in campaign donations. Riley calls Langevin’s record “dismal,” saying the congressman has used 11 million taxpayer dollars to run his office while ignoring economic issues.
Riley says Langevin voted down the Keystone Pipeline (which President Obama ultimately put the kibosh on) and a bill that would have opening lease sales on offshore drilling locations. These bills, Riley contends, would have lowered gas prices and created jobs.
“I find it outrageous that Mr. Langevin has continually voted against the interest of Rhode Island’s middle class, ranging from tax policy to energy independence,” said Riley in a statement.
But Langevin’s campaign is adamant that the congressman has taken steps to improve the economy.
"Jim is continuing to fight to move the country forward by supporting a strong middle class,” continued Dworkin in a statement. “That means prioritizing tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses that create jobs here, and supporting education and job training, not doubling down on a failed plan to give more tax cuts to the wealthiest few and corporations that ship jobs overseas. There remains a lot of work to do to turn the economy around after the worst recession in 80 years, but Jim has a track record of getting results for Rhode Island."
In terms of counter attack ads from Langevin, Dworkin said as of press time yesterday, there was nothing to announce.