Washington (CNN)Democrats are using the ongoing scandal surrounding embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens as a way to attack a top challenger to incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Democrats are using the Missouri Governor scandal to attack GOP Senate candidate Josh Hawley
Greitens last week was indicted on a felony invasion of privacy charge stemming from an extramarital affair that occured in 2015. Greitens, whose governorship is at risk as he faces both an indictment by a St. Louis grand jury and an investigation by a bipartisan state House panel, has denied blackmailing or taking nude pictures without consent of the woman with whom he had an affair.
Now a Democratic group is trying to tie Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley to the scandal just days after he filed to run for Senate to unseat McCaskill, who is seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators up for reelection in the 2018 midterms.
Senate Majority PAC, a group that supports Democratic Senate candidates, released an ad that linked Hawley to Greitens. The 30-second spot is running in multiple markets and is part of a buy that began two weeks ago, the PAC's spokesman, Chris Hayden, said.
The ad's narrator says, "Scandals in Jefferson City. Now real questions about Attorney General Josh Hawley."
"Josh Hawley, he's just part of the problem in Jefferson City," the narrator of the ad, which includes footage of broadcast news coverage of the Greitens scandal, adds.
The ad also knocks Hawley for accepting money from David Humphreys, one of Missouri's most prolific campaign donors who had recently been embroiled in an ethics scandal. Humphreys also donated to Greitens campaign.
Hayden said the initial buy on the ad was more than $900,000 and that the group added an additional $500,000 when the ad targeting Hawley was added. The group did not disclose how long the ad would run.
Asked to comment on the ad, a Hawley campaign spokeswoman highlighted the ties between McCaskill and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, and added that McCaskill was in the "worst position" of her decades-long political career.
"For two weeks in a row, Senator McCaskill provided negative attacks for her good friend Chuck Schumer to spend millions on her behalf," spokeswoman Kelli Ford said. "It's clear she is more worried than ever. She's in the worst position of her 36-year political career because she broke her promise to be bipartisan and votes with Schumer every time it matters. Schumer is taking a prominent role in these efforts because he wants to keep Claire McCaskill's vote in his back pocket."
Hawley is seen as the top candidate who can defeat McCaskill in November. President Donald Trump is expected to headline an invitation-only fundraiser for Hawley in St. Louis on March 14. The state went for Trump by almost 20 points in 2016.
The ad comes as McCaskill and Missouri Democrats are trying to paint Hawley as a political ladder-climber, and recently, as someone who isn't performing his job as the state's top law enforcement official seriously.
"Hawley is the worst type of politician: one who is willing to stand by someone accused of sexual blackmail in order to ensure that the donations to his political campaigns keep coming," Missouri Democratic Party deputy communications director Brooke Goren said.
On Friday, a spokeswoman for McCaskill's campaign cast doubt on the credibility of Hawley's investigation into the use of the secret messaging app, Confide, by members of Greitens' staff. Hawley was investigating the use of the app in the governor's office after the Kansas City Star reported last year that Greitens and staff members used the app, amid concerns that it could be used to work around open records laws.
According to a summary of the attorney general's report released by Greiten's office, Hawley "has not identified any basis" to conclude that Greitens' office broke state law by using the app.
McCaskill campaign spokeswoman Meira Bernstein said that the investigation, and Hawley's "decision to provide the report to the Governor and not the public has lost him all credibility with the people of Missouri."
Hawley's office has opened an in inquiry into the Mission Continues, the veterans charity that Greitens founded after returning from Iraq. There have been questions about Greitens' ties to the charity, which he left in 2014, dating back to at least 2016 when the Associated Press reported that Greitens had raised nearly than $2 million for his campaign from donors that also gave significant amounts to The Mission Continues.
Loree Ann Paradise, a spokeswoman for Hawley's office, told CNN that there was an "open inquiry into the charitable activities" of the Mission Continues "pursuant to the AGO's enforcement responsibilities under the consumer protection and charitable registration and reporting laws."