A group opposed to the Republican tax law is going on offense in Arizona amid signs of an intensifying special election fight, attacking a key political victory GOP candidates hope to run on this fall.
The Tax March -- a nonprofit that is part of the "Not One Penny" progressive coalition -- is spending $500,000 on ads criticizing the tax law in the Phoenix media market over the next three weeks.
IRS rules prevent the group from intervening directly or indirectly in political campaigns on behalf of (or in opposition to) specific candidates. The timing and location of the ad buy, however, mean that ads hitting the GOP tax law will be airing ahead of the special election in Arizona's 8th Congressional District, set for April 24.
Debbie Lesko, a state senator, is the Republican candidate in the special election, running against Democrat Hiral Tiperneni, a physician and cancer research advocate. Lesko is heavily favored to win the seat vacated by Trent Franks, who resigned amid accusations of sexual harassment in December.
In the new ad, an accountant named Andrew Scalise discusses his disappointment with the tax law.
"I'm a practicing accountant for the last nine years," Scalise said. "When this new tax law was coming out, I was enthusiastic, thought it would be a really good thing. But after reading into it a lot more, I think it's going to hurt regular people."
The ads will also be airing around tax day, April 17 this year.
Tax March Executive Director Nicole Gill said the tax law "is a bad deal for the American people" in a statement announcing the ad campaign.
"From disproportionately benefiting the wealthy to raising costs for middle-class families, this new tax law is a bad deal for the American people," Gill said. "The last thing hardworking Americans need is a tax code that gives billions to the wealthy few by raising taxes on a majority of families."
Though Democrats see the tax law as a potential liability for Republicans, GOP leaders are equally confident it's their key to winning the midterm cycle. President Donald Trump spoke in West Virginia on Thursday touting the tax law and hitting Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who is seeking re-election this year, for voting against it.
Corry Bliss, who heads two major GOP groups -- the nonprofit, issue-oriented American Action Network and the political action committee Congressional Leadership Fund -- spoke to the tax law's importance during the special election in Pennsylvania last month.
"Answer this question and I will tell you if we keep the House or not," Bliss said. "In 10 months, does the middle class think we cut their taxes? Every member of the Republican Party should be spending all of their time selling the tax plan. Everything else is a waste of time and money."
Trump carried Arizona's 8th Congressional District by 20 points in 2016, and Republicans hold a 17-point edge in voter registration there. But a rash of recent spending by Republicans suggests the race could be more competitive this cycle.
Since March, the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund -- a super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership -- have spent over $600,000 combined on a mix of advertising, mail and canvassing to boost Lesko.
The $500,000 ad buy from the Tax March is the first public commitment of resources on the Democratic side. Thus far, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have declined to put significant money into the race, and did not contribute to Tax March's ad buy. A DNC official told CNN that the committee provided a grant to the state Democratic Party to help support organizing and digital efforts for the upcoming special election.
House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC focused on flipping the House of Representatives this fall, has yet to spend on the race either. But Jeb Fain, its communications director, told CNN that while Arizona's 8th district "is an inherently difficult district for Democrats, the group is "keeping a close eye on this race -- assessing in real time to determine if and how we can be helpful."
Not One Penny has already released two digital ads hitting the tax law, tied to two Republican candidates, Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania's 8th district and Tom MacArthur in New Jersey's 3rd district.
Not One Penny has said it plans to spend up to $5 million this cycle campaigning against the tax law.