WASHINGTON — A Democratic group will begin airing radio ads in Syracuse today criticizing Rep. John Katko for refusing to support a bill that establishes an independent commission to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The ads from American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, a liberal super PAC, will run on eight radio stations in Central New York over the next week. The group paid about $34,000 for the air time.
Katko, R-Camillus, is among three Republican House members nationwide targeted by the ads, an American Bridge spokesman said.
So far, only one House Republican – Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C. — has joined 197 Democrats in co-sponsoring the Protecting Our Democracy Act (H.R. 356).
The bill would establish a bipartisan national commission to examine attempts by Russia or other governments to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
Republican leaders in Congress have insisted that any probe should be conducted by congressional intelligence committees.
A declassified assessment in January by U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russian leader “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election” with the goal of harming Hillary Clinton to the benefit of Donald Trump.
In February, Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned after it was disclosed that he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with its ambassador before Trump was sworn in as president.
In the radio ad against Katko, a man’s voice can be heard speaking Russian and laughing. An announcer states: “That’s the sound of the Russians and Vladimir Putin laughing at us. Because they’re getting away with undermining our democracy. And what’s Congressman John Katko doing about it? Nothing. Katko won’t even support an independent investigation.”
The announcer mentions Flynn, and notes that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was reportedly paid about $12.7 million by a pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine.
The ads are the first to single out Katko in this campaign cycle, more than a year and a half before the 2018 mid-term election.
Katko is considered vulnerable because he is among only 23 House Republicans nationwide to win in a congressional district carried by Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.