The political group tied to former White House adviser Steve Bannon had not as of Tuesday evening purchased any television time for its hard hitting new advertisement targeting Sen. Luther Strange in the special Senate election in Alabama.
Supporters of Strange, an appointee to the Senate running against Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, also questioned whether the spot from Great America Alliance qualified as "issue advocacy," as required of the political advertisements run by 501c(4) organizations.
Such ads usually revolve around a issue, such as taxes, or healthcare, with the group behind the spot offering mild criticism of a particular politician and urging viewers to push him or her into supporting its policies. The ad from Great America Alliance criticizes Strange for his ties Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his past work as a lobbyist, but not for his record on any issue.
"Great America Alliance doesn't appear to have registered with the FEC. Great America PAC has," said a Republican operative backing Strange. "Great America Alliance claims it's a (c)4, and that ad is decidedly not issue advocacy."
Media buying sources said no advertising time for this new spot, first reported by Politico, had been purchased on Alabama television. Breitbart News reported that Great America Alliance planned to run the ad on digital platforms, with television coming later. That is significant, because the Sept. 26 special election is just two weeks away, and groups often tout new ads, with the buys never actually materializing.
Strange was endorsed by President Trump, and his voting record since succeeding Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate has been in lockstep with the White House. But Bannon, who departed as Trump's chief strategist in August, has targeted Strange for defeat because he is being supported by McConnell. Bannon blames McConnell for Trump's missteps, accusing him of purposely thwarting the president's legislative agenda.
McConnell's super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, has spent millions of dollars to boost Strange, first over Rep. Mo Brooks in the Aug. 15 special primary, and now against Moore in the primary runoff. On Tuesday, SLF issued a statement condeming Bannon for remarks he made on CBS' "60 Minutes" in which he was critical of Trump's decision to fire James Comey as FBI director — a reaction to his involvement with Great America Alliance and the group's foray into Alabama.
Bannon called the move the biggest mistake in modern political history.
"Steve Bannon is dead wrong. Every fact that has come out about James Comey's handling of the Clinton email investigation has affirmed the rightness of President Trump's decision," SLF President and CEO Steven Law said.