By Mark Preston
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The first campaign television ad featuring disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Florida, hit the airwaves Friday in southern Indiana, as a Democratic challenger sought to link the ongoing page scandal to the Republican congressman.
Former Rep. Baron Hill, D-Indiana, criticizes Rep. Mike Sodrel, R-Indiana, for refusing to return $77,000 in campaign contributions "from the House leadership who knew about but did nothing to stop sexual predator Congressman Foley.
"Millionaire Mike, he says nothing and refuses to return the money," an announcer says in the ad that is scheduled to run at least through the weekend, a Hill campaign spokeswoman tells CNN.
Foley resigned his seat a week ago after it was learned that the Florida Republican sent inappropriate e-mail and sexually explicit instant messages to teenage congressional pages.
A Sodrel spokesman denounced the ad as being "completely untrue," and noted that the Indiana Republican has not yet decided to whether to ask television stations to refrain from airing it.
"When Mike first saw the ad, he was appalled," said Cam Savage, Sodrel's spokesman. "The idea that Baron would try to directly link him with this Foley scandal is just preposterous. We are not surprised by it, because we know how Baron is and we know how desperately he wants to be back in Congress. We see this as a new low."
The ad also features images of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-California, who is now serving time in jail for accepting bribes as well as former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who is fighting charges that he broke Texas campaign laws. The ad notes that Cunningham had donated $2,000 to Sodrel, while DeLay, who resigned earlier this year, had given the congressman $20,000.
Melanie Morris, Hill's spokeswoman, said Sodrel "should return the money from those in the House leadership who kept this under wraps.
"Basically, our point is there is a crisis in leadership and Mike Sodrel isn't doing anything about it," she said. "He is part of the problem."
Minnesota Democratic congressional candidate Patty Wetterling was the first person to run an ad on the page scandal earlier this week, but in her ad Wetterling never mentioned Foley by name or showed a picture of him.
"It was only a matter of time before candidates wove the Foley scandal into ad messages," said Evan Tracey, of TNSMI/Campaign Media Analysis Group, CNN's consultant on television advertising spending. "I suspect this will be the first of many ads we'll see highlighting the Foley scandal."
The Sodrel-Hill race is a rematch from 2004 when Sodrel beat Hill. It is one of the most closely watched races of the 2006 election cycle and CNN has rated it as a "Toss-Up." (View CNN midterm race analysis)
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