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The battle between two Republicans for the open U.S. Senate seat in Texas is becoming increasingly ugly with super PACs doing much of the dirty work.
The Texas Conservatives Fund, a super PAC supporting Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, is running an ad that features a mother whose son committed suicide after a stay at a for-profit juvenile detention facility, the developer of which Cruz, Dewhurst’s opponent, defended in court.
The ad, released Monday, is called “Ted Cruz Should Be Ashamed.”
Dewhurst and tea party-favorite Cruz, the state’s former solicitor general, face off again on July 31 since neither candidate was able to win a majority in last May’s primary.
The new ad refers to Cruz’s legal representation of Robert Mericle, a developer involved in the “kids for cash” scandal in Pennsylvania in 2008. Two judges were accused of accepting bribes from Mericle to send children to his facilities.
Mericle pled guilty to concealing evidence of a felony, according to news reports.
By linking Cruz, a high-profile appellate lawyer, to Mericle, the ad is somewhat misleading. According to both Cruz’s campaign website and news reports, Cruz represented Mericle in a civil suit over breach of contract with an insurance company, which was refusing to pay to help settle civil claims resulting from the scandal, the Texas Tribune reported.
Cruz was not involved in the criminal case against Mericle.
The kids-for-cash scandal has nonetheless become a flashpoint in the runoff election.
“No Principles,” an ad from the Texas Conservatives Fund released July 17, also makes use of the Cruz-Mericle connection. One day later, Dewhurst’s campaign released “Cash for Cruz,” a radio ad repeating the claims. Dewhurst’s campaign has aired several other ads along the same lines.
The Texas Conservatives Fund is bankrolled by a handful of big donors. Harold Simmons, the CEO of Contran Corp. and one of the biggest donors to super PACs in the country, has given $1 million to the group. Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder and also a top super PAC donor, has given $400,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
To date, the super PAC has reported spending $3.7 million opposing Cruz and is the primary outside spender supporting Dewhurst’s run.
Countering the pro-Dewhurst super PAC are super PACs the Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth Action and FreedomWorks for America, which have spent a combined $5.6 million opposing Dewhurst and supporting Cruz, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
In other outside spending news:
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