DAVENPORT | A new radio ad linking Republican Senate hopeful Joni Ernst to the conservative Koch brothers had her campaign and allies crying foul Tuesday, accusing Democrat Bruce Braley of not honoring her service because the spot is running while she is on National Guard duty.
The ad is being aired by the Senate Majority PAC, a group with ties to Majority Leader Harry Reid. Politico reported Tuesday the group is spending $400,000 on the three-week buy.
With Ernst having left for two weeks of training with her National Guard unit on Friday, Republicans say the ads are untoward.
In a statement forwarded by the Ernst campaign, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said: "I believe Joni Ernst's service to our nation is honorable and praiseworthy, but clearly Bruce Braley and his liberal allies disagree. It is shameful that they would launch cheap political attacks against her while she is in uniform and unable to respond or defend herself."
McCain is a former prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. He called on Braley to demand the ad be taken down.
The Senate Majority PAC ad is but the latest in outside spending to hit the Iowa race.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, last week announced it was beginning a three-week television and digital ad campaign targeting Braley, with the cost of the effort at more than $800,000.
American Crossroads, the group Karl Rove founded, also has purchased air time in Iowa with an ad critical of Braley.
Braley himself has not been on the air. Ernst's campaign ended a spot critical of Braley over the weekend and began running a positive spot on her behalf this week.
The Braley campaign responded with a statement from former state Sen. Jack Kibbie, a Korean War veteran.
"This political attack is hypocrisy at its worst. Joni Ernst’s campaign and her allies have been running attack ads against Bruce for days, and this week the spending disparity is more than 4 to 1," Kibbie said.
He added that if McCain and the Ernst campaign are so concerned, they ought to suspend their own efforts and call on their allies to do the same.
According to Politico, the new Senate Majority PAC ad features a couple who suggest Ernst will be beholden to the Koch brothers, who it says have supported changes to Medicare that would cost seniors and favor personal accounts under Social Security.
A statement from the Republican Party of Iowa, however, suggested that the criticism of Ernst while she is on guard duty is consistent with Braley's past opposition to funding for the Iraq War when he first entered Congress.
Ernst and Braley are in the midst of a high-profile Senate race, and the Republican's service in the guard is a key part of her campaign's narrative. She served during the Iraq War, and the campaign asked Iowans to be "on duty" for her while she is in Fort McCoy, Wis., training with her unit.
This is the second time that McCain has jumped into the Iowa Senate race. Earlier this year, he defended Ernst when Republican primary rival Mark Jacobs' campaign accused her of being "AWOL" for missing votes in the state Senate.
Jacobs backed off the characterization, which Ernst said was offensive to a person in the military.