An all-Republican county board in Iowa decided to use American Rescue Plan funds to help purchase the local ski resort.
Senate Republicans and an allied dark-money group are blitzing Senate Democrats with attack ads, dishonestly claiming that they caused inflation by voting for "reckless" and "wasteful" out-of-state spending projects.
In a typical spot, released Tuesday by the GOP-linked outside group One Nation, a narrator attacks Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) for voting for President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan last year:
Wasteful Washington spending is killing us with inflation and sky-high prices on groceries and gas. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto voted to allow hundreds of millions of dollars of COVID relief funds to be squandered on a luxury resort in Florida, a New Jersey soccer stadium, a ski area in Iowa. Tell Senator Cortez Masto to start voting against reckless spending to stop inflation. Nevada families need cheaper gas and food — not frivolous luxuries in other states.
Onscreen captions claim that "Cortez Masto's spending bill" included "$140 million for resort in Florida," "$15 million for soccer stadium in New Jersey," and "$2 million ski area in Iowa."
None of those items were actually mentioned anywhere in the bill, which provided state, local, tribal, and territorial governments with $350 billion in pandemic relief funds to use as they deemed fit. In total, the $157 million spent on those three items amounts to less than 0.045% of the plan's funds.
The law also provided $1,400 relief checks to most families, a 2021 tax cut for millions of middle- and lower-income families, and hundreds of billions of dollars to cover school reopening costs.
One Nation is running virtually the same ad against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
The group's similar spot against Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) accuses him of being the "deciding vote" for "$15 million for a New Jersey soccer stadium, money to promote French operas, and hire a poet at a Connecticut college."
The tax-exempt political organization is an offshoot of veteran Republican Party operative Karl Rove's American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS groups, which used the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling to run tens of millions of dollars on "independent" pro-GOP ads. These spots are part of a multi-million dollar effort by One Nation to hurt vulnerable Senate Democrats.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee — the official campaign arm of the Senate Republican caucus — has been running nearly identical attacks.
Their recent spot against Cortez Masto claims "gas and grocery prices are out of control" because of "President Biden's wasteful spending bill — a dance center in California, a ski resort in Iowa, a luxury hotel in Florida — and Catherine Cortez Masto cast the deciding vote."
The rescue package put few conditions on how states and localities could use their relief funding.
Indeed, it was an all-Republican board of supervisors in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, that opted to use some of their funds to take ownership of the Mt. Crescent Ski Area, arguing that it was necessary to bring tourism revenue to the county.
According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the vast majority of the $350 billion has gone to things like state operations and administration ($29 billion), unemployment insurance ($16 billion), water infrastructure ($14 billion), health ($12 billion) and education ($7 billion).
New Hampshire Chief Information Officer Denis Goulet — who was appointed by both Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and his Democratic predecessor — told StateScoop last August that his department got about $30 million for IT modernization and security from his state's portion of the funds, observing that "mundane" programs like those are not as "politically cool" but are "critical for delivering citizen services."
Over the past several months, Republicans have falsely claimed that the Biden administration and the Democratic majority's spending programs were solely to blame for a spike in inflation.
Experts disagree about what share of the nation's higher prices were fueled by the American Rescue Plan, though most agree that other factors — including Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — also played a huge role.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.