Group led by former Pence aide launches ad campaign to pressure Moran on taxes

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A dark money group founded by former Vice President Mike Pence’s ex-chief of staff will launch an ad campaign next week aimed at pressuring Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran into dropping his support for a bipartisan infrastructure plan.

Moran, a Republican who stands for re-election in 2022, was one of 21 senators who signed on last week to a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure framework negotiated with President Joe Biden.

“I imagine this will be a surprise to many Kansans that this is the type of bill Jerry Moran is supporting,” said Marc Short, a former chief of staff to Pence and founder of The Coalition to Protect American Workers, an anti-tax group formed in March.

“And really our concern is that this first step would pave way the way to a much larger tax increase,” Short said.

Short’s group will launch a six-figure ad campaign Tuesday in Kansas focused on Moran in hopes of pushing the already wavering senator off of the plan.

The ad features hundreds of faceless men in black suits marching in unison as a narrator ominously warns, “If Joe Biden gets his way, they’re coming: IRS agents.”

The bipartisan infrastructure plan doesn’t raise taxes, but it includes $40 billion for the Internal Revenue Service, which has seen its budget drastically shrink in the last decade. The additional funding is meant to step up enforcement and catch tax evaders, ultimately bringing in more revenue to the federal government.

But the ad warns viewers the agents will be “aggressively coming for every dime they can grab at your house and at our small businesses.” It then shifts to a photograph of Moran and urges viewers to “tell Sen. Moran Kansas votes no.”

Moran is the first Republican lawmaker to be targeted by the group, which has focused on Democrats up to this point.

Moran disputed the notion that passing the infrastructure plan will trigger an increase in taxes.

“Improving our infrastructure is vital to our nation’s economy, safety and to our ability to compete in the global economy,” Moran said. “We can pass an infrastructure package in a bipartisan way without raising taxes, without eliminating the Trump tax cuts, without recklessly spending trillions of dollars and without eliminating the filibuster.”

Moran’s Senate seat is seen as safe for Republicans in 2022 and there’s little chance he’ll face a competitive primary challenge. But he could still face pressure from the political right on various issues in the lead-up to the next election.

Short said the goal wasn’t to facilitate a primary challenge against Moran but instead to persuade him to change his stance on the plan if he hears from Kansas voters.

Moran is one of 11 GOP senators who worked across the aisle on the infrastructure package, but his support for the plan is hardly definite.

As early as last week, Moran’s office said he was seeking assurances from moderate Democrats that they wouldn’t seek to pass additional legislation to enact the portions of Biden’s agenda absent from the bipartisan framework.

Biden has sent mixed messages on this point in recent days.

“The assurances that we have heard over the weekend, which seem convoluted at best, aren’t really assuring me,” Moran said during a Monday appearance on Fox Business. It followed Biden’s retreat from a threat to not sign the bipartisan plan unless his other agenda items were passed in a separate bill.

“I have little comfort from everything I’ve seen or heard to date,” Moran said.

Short said the ad campaign would likely be focused in the Wichita and Topeka television markets.

As a 501(c)(4) organization, the coalition does not have to disclose its donors. But Short said the individuals involved in the group previously worked on the Trade Works for America campaign in 2018, which urged passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).

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