(WASHINGTON) — House Democrats are launching a billboard campaign this week focusing on swing seat Republicans and seeking to flip the script on attacks over the “defund the police” slogan used by some progressive activists and lawmakers.
The billboards from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), shared first with ABC News, will target a dozen incumbents over an April social media post from former President Donald Trump calling for House Republicans to “defund the [Justice Department] and FBI until they come to their senses.”
The new Democratic billboards, which are the result of a five-figure investment, will all be up by Wednesday before drivers hit the road for the Memorial Day weekend and accuse the Republicans of being “silent” following Trump’s post.
The 12 lawmakers, who represent districts President Joe Biden won in 2020, did not previously respond to a survey from Punchbowl News seeking reactions to Trump’s comment.
His post came as he faced legal threats from several cases related to his actions around the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, as well as his possession of classified documents after leaving the White House, hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and more.
Trump has increasingly criticized federal law enforcement for what he claims are politicized investigations against him. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Attorney General Merrick Garland last year appointed an independent prosecutor, Jack Smith, to oversee the Department of Justice probes into Trump in light of Trump’s White House bid.
“Such an appointment underscores the department’s commitment to both independence and accountability in particularly sensitive matters,” Garland said at the time.
The targeted lawmakers are Reps. Juan Ciscomani and David Schweikert of Arizona; John Duarte, Mike Garcia, Michelle Steel and David Valadao of California; Tom Kean Jr. of New Jersey; Anthony D’Esposito, Mike Lawler and George Santos of New York; Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; and Virginia’s Jen Kiggans.
“Vulnerable House Republicans — who time and time again attempt to paint themselves as moderates who are pro public safety — have shamelessly refused to condemn the twice-impeached, criminally-indicted former president’s call to defund the law enforcement agencies that keep our communities safe. These House Republicans have put party politics over public safety – and we won’t let Americans forget,” DCCC spokesperson Justin Chermol said in a statement.
Republicans, for their part, have continued to knock Democratic stances on law enforcement, highlighting a resolution that many Democrats in the House voted against last week that would have denounced “calls to defund, disband, dismantle or abolish the police.”
“Americans had never heard the term ‘defund the police’ until extreme House Democrats screamed it from mountaintops and embraced it as a party platform. They realize their radical policies are a serious political liability and remain desperate to deflect from their position of condemning law enforcement and public safety — including just last Friday,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Will Reinert said.
The billboards mark Democrats’ latest pushback to attacks over crime, which has long been a political sore spot for their party.
For years, Republicans have highlighted a call among progressives to “defund” or reallocate the police funding — hammering Democrats more broadly as, in their words, soft on crime even though leading Democrats like President Joe Biden have repeatedly rejected the “defund” label.
Strategists believe that effort paid election dividends in places like New York, where Republicans had unexpected success in House races last year while struggling elsewhere in the country during the midterms.
Democrats have tried before to reverse the crime criticism, including by pointing to Republicans who voted against bills passed in 2021 that added funding to local police departments.
Some Republicans like Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio have doubled down on Trump’s call to defund aspects of federal law enforcement, saying the House would look into their funding and casting the probes into the former president as politically motivated.
Meanwhile Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in the spring that he would offer a resolution condemning Trump’s remark.
“Where will they stand — with the former president’s dangerous call to cut funding to federal law enforcement or with the American people who want to be safe?” Schumer asked in a floor speech in April.
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