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Voices: Back Story

Young Guns set sights on Tierney-Tisei race

BY: Jack Sullivan and Bruce Mohl

A conservative Super PAC connected to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Tea Party favorite, is coming into town with guns blazing to try to oust embattled US Rep. John Tierney.

The YG Action Fund – named for the so-called “young guns,” the new generation of right-wing House Republicans who are looking to put their conservative stamp on Washington – has committed nearly $660,000 for commercials on Boston TV stations with the sole focus of getting Richard Tisei elected into their club.

“Richard Tisei is a next generation, live-and-let-live Republican and someone that the people of Massachusetts can be proud of,” Brad Dayspring, senior advisor to YG Action Fund and a former top aide to Cantor, wrote in an email response to questions from CommonWealth. “John Tierney, on the other hand, is bogged down by ethical questions and all kinds of ugly allegations, even coming from his own family - the people who know him best. John Tierney is a guy who claims to have no knowledge of his family's illegal gambling operation despite their ties to criminal activities for over three decades.” Dayspring was alluding to the recent conviction of Tierney’s wife and brother-in-law on charges related to laundering illegal Internet gambling money. The brother-in-law alleges Tierney knew what was going on, but Tierney says that’s not true.

Dayspring says the PAC could drop even more money on the race as time moves on but said there are no other battles in the state that it is seeking to influence. A spokesman for Tierney says the campaign is aware of the media buy but deferred comment to the campaign manager, who did not immediately return a call.

The Young Guns group so far has blocked out nearly 280 30-second spots on WBZ, WCVB, and WFXT at a cost of nearly $660,000. That could prove to be a huge boost for Tisei, who has raised $1.2 million so far and had a little more than $800,000 cash on hand as of the July quarterly report. Tierney, by contrast, had $693,000 cash on hand and had raised $1.3 million this election cycle.

Federal election laws prohibit coordination between campaigns and so-called Super PACS. Unlike US Sen. Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, who signed a pact banning outside groups form running ads in their race, there is no similar agreement between Tisei and Tierney. Both camps tried to negotiate a similar deal but that fell apart in May, opening the door to outside advertising.

Tisei points out that the Democratic Congressional Committee purchased $3.3 million of air time in late July, just before the start of mandated online reporting, and the Republican National Congressional Committee has bought $2 million worth of ad time.

“In a perfect world you don’t want outside groups involved at all,” says Tisei. “But it is what it is. When you’re running up against PAC money that favors incumbents, you need all the support you can get.”

But the backing by the YG Action Fund could also be problematic for Tisei. While the former state senator and candidate for lieutenant governor has been trying to package himself as a moderate Republican who can work across party lines, the Young Guns have been known for their fealty to conservative ideology and intractability on compromising with Congressional Democrats or the Obama administration.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the presumed GOP vice president nominee, was one of the founders of the Young Guns network along with Cantor and US Rep. Kevin McCarthy, now the House Majority Whip. When Ryan was tapped by Mitt Romney as his running mate, Tisei took pains to point out that he had different views than the fiscal firebrand. And while Tisei has been trying to establish his centrist bona fides, support from a group that’s tied to the leaders of the far right could be an albatross in Massachusetts, where President Obama is popular.

Tisei says while that perception of the Young Guns may have been accurate in the 2010 election, the group has gotten far more diverse. Tisei, for one, did not sign the “no-tax pledge” pushed on all Republicans by Grover Norquist and at least seven other Young Guns from this year’s crop refused to sign the pledge as well.

While some may view the Young Guns as outside of the Massachusetts mainstream, Tisei’s campaign manager Paul Moore says it’s better than the alternative that Tierney has to deal with.

“I would rather have Eric Cantor as a friend than [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi,” he says.

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