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Liberal group 'cuts' midterm Ebola ad blaming GOP

updated 2:10 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
  • The liberal advocacy group mixes footage of the Ebola outbreak with Republicans saying the word "cut".
  • The group's president blamed Republicans for the Ebola crisis and "thousands of deaths".
  • The group is planning to run the ad in states with competitive 2014 Senate races.

Washington (CNN) -- A liberal advocacy group is blaming Republicans for the Ebola crisis in a new ad that will first air on TV in Kentucky next weekend.

The Agenda Project released an ad online late Sunday that interlaces self-described "disturbing footages of the Ebola outbreak" with a mash-up of top Republicans -- including those tied up in crucial midterm contests and potential 2016 candidates -- saying the word "cut." The ad describes how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saw its discretionary funding cut by $585 million from 2010 to 2014 and the National Institute for Health has faced $446 million in cuts during the same period.

The group plans to continue to play up public fears over the Ebola virus in the final weeks leading up to the midterms and will modify the ad with state-specific versions to hit Republican Senate candidates like Iowa's Joni Ernst and North Carolina's Thom Tillis who want to cut federal government spending, the group's founder and president Erica Payne said.

Payne called the ad an "indictment" of Republican policies that have "led directly to thousands of deaths overseas" and said the ad is not "sensationalized" or "aggressive."

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"People should be deathly afraid of Republican policies," Payne said in an interview Monday, adding that the link between the Ebola crisis and the Republican focus on cutting government spending is "really straightforward."

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Responding to the ad, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said the best way to fix the federal government is to remove "Democrats from the driver's seat in the Senate."

"It's odd in that the Democrats blaming Washington for Ebola have controlled Washington for the last six years," he said.

Both the CDC and NIH were impacted by the sequester, across-the-board spending cuts that went into effect in 2013 when Republicans and Democrats in Congress could not come to an agreement on specific cuts that would offset the automatic slashing.

The ad, "Republican Cuts Kill," ties Republicans to the Ebola outbreak, which has killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa, but only one person in the United States.

Payne said that there's "no question" that the Ebola death on U.S. soil would not have happened if Republicans weren't so focused on cutting government spending.

"These people's anti-government fever has reached such a level that it is damaging to our country's ability to deal with this kind of issue," Payne said. "We're here because of them."

The ad, which the group said will make its debut on Kentucky airwaves this weekend, opens with a clip of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who would likely become majority leader if Republicans take back the Senate next month.

"Washington actually can cut spending," McConnell says at the start of the ad.

McConnell isn't the only Senate contender featured in the ad. Reps. Bill Cassidy and Tom Cotton, who are vying to unseat the Democratic incumbent in Louisiana and Arkansas, respectively, also pop up in the spot.

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"People should be deathly afraid of Republican policies."
Erica Payne, founder and president of The Agenda Project

Pat Roberts, the senator from Kansas who is facing independent businessman Greg Orman, also flashes across the screen.

The group plans to expand the ad to high airwaves in Senate races in South Dakota, North Carolina, Iowa and Kansas, Payne said.

And the liberal group also attacks potential 2016 presidential contenders, with Govs. Rick Perry and Chris Christie, Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio as well as Reps. Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann making an appearance alongside clips documenting the Ebola outbreak.

Paul's spokesman, Brian Darling, blasted the Agenda Project for being "a shadowy group of progressive political hit men" and said they "should be ashamed of themselves for blaming a whole political party for the Ebola virus."

The organization itself is no stranger to controversy having been behind the 2011 ad that appears to show Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pushing an elderly woman in an wheelchair off a cliff.

The ad isn't the first time midterm politics have gotten an injection of Ebola. Republican candidate for Senate in New Hampshire Scott Brown also used the deadly disease to attack incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for not securing the U.S.'s southern border.

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Tillis also said the U.S. should tighten border security to prevent an Ebola outbreak in the U.S. in a debate last week against Sen. Kay Hagan.

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Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor also made Ebola the focus of an ad attacking his challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton, for voting against a pandemic preparedeness bill. (Cotton actually voted for the final version of the bill.)

Sen. Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said Monday on CNN the public health system needs more resources to confront Ebola and that Congress should have never cut public health funding over the last several years.

"Especially when it comes to public health, sequestration is a bad idea and should be repealed," Casey said. "Congress has to take responsibility for a program that needs a lot more funding."

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Congress will debate and vote on the budget for the next fiscal year in the coming weeks, which Casey called "an opportunity in the Congress to get this right." He is calling for adding at least $120 million to the public health budget.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, also linked spending cuts and the Ebola outbreak in an interview with CNN on Thursday.

"There's no doubt the deep health care cuts that we've seen have made it more difficult to respond in a rapid and comprehensive way to the Ebola outbreak," Van Hollen said. "The cuts they've seen in past years, they were like eroding the foundation and it clearly meant that they were starting from behind,"

And Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH's National Insitutte of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a recent Congressional hearing that spending cuts have had "a significant impact on us" that has "eroded our ability to respond in the way that I and my colleagues would like to see us be able to respond to these emerging threats."

Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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