National GOP group tries to link Michaud to ‘IRS scandal’

A national Republican campaign organization took steps Friday to capitalize in Maine on the controversy surrounding revelations that the Internal Revenue Service placed greater scrutiny on conservative groups seeking nonprofit status.

The National Republican Congressional Committee announced Friday that it would begin running online ads urging U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to return campaign contributions he received from a political action committee affiliated with the union that represents IRS workers. The committee paid for ads on Facebook and StumbleUpon, Ian Prior, northeast regional press secretary for the NRCC, said in a statement Friday. Michaud is one of several Democrats targeted by NRCC ads that urge constituents to insist that they return contributions from “the scandal ridden IRS’s union.”

The effort to link Michaud to the IRS controversy is a stretch. The ads refer to campaign contributions made between 2002 and 2012 by the National Treasury Employees Political Action Committee. The National Treasury Employees Union represents IRS employees. It also represents employees of more than 20 other federal agencies, ranging from the Food and Drug Administration to the National Park Service.

Michaud, a Democrat who is serving his sixth term representing Maine’s 2nd U.S. House District, has said he’s contemplating a run for governor in 2014. He’s generally considered the party’s strongest candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Gov. Paul LePage and independent Eliot Cutler in a 2014 gubernatorial contest. Other Democrats, including former Gov. John Baldacci, are awaiting Michaud’s decision before determining whether to run.

But the NRCC ads, which show a donkey and an eagle with the letters IRS underneath it inside a heart, seem more focused on positioning the GOP to rally its base for the 2014 mid-term congressional elections than to influence Maine’s gubernatorial race.

“Mike Michaud faked outrage over the IRS scandal to win political points with voters, all while hoping people would overlook the $12,700 in campaign cash he received from the scandal ridden IRS’s union. It’s time for Mike Michaud to do the right thing and give back this tainted money,” Prior said in the statement.

The generally soft-spoken Michaud is not known to show public outrage, fake or otherwise. In a prepared statement he issued Wednesday on the IRS controversy, Michaud said, “These actions deserve a critical review, and investigations by both law enforcement and Congress are clearly warranted. A federal agency targeting organizations based on ideology is outrageous and unacceptable. These investigations must proceed with two goals: figuring out exactly what happened and how we can prevent such incidents from happening again.”

The Federal Election Commission’s website shows that the PAC has donated heavily to Democratic candidates for federal office, including Maine Democrats Tom Allen and Chellie Pingree, for more than a decade. However, it also has given money to Republicans, including former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, Arizona Sen. John McCain and New York U.S. Rep. Peter King.

The National Treasury Employees Political Action Committee also donated $5,000 in October 2012 to independent Angus King, who easily won a five-person race to succeed Snowe.

Michaud, a former mill worker, has garnered and shown strong support from organized labor throughout his political career. He was not immediately available Friday to comment on the NRCC ads.

— Robert Long