WASHINGTON—J Street kicked off a national campaign today to bolster Senate candidates who back the Iran nuclear agreement with a $500,000 television ad buy in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“We’re aiming to fundamentally transform the political calculation by demonstrating that the Iran nuclear agreement and diplomacy-first approaches make for good policy and for good politics,” J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami says of the multi-state, multi-platform advertising campaign.
The campaign is the first and only national effort to defend the Iran agreement in the context of the 2016 elections. J Street will use television and digital advertising, along with direct mail, in competitive Senate races across the country, not simply to defend candidates but to go on offense against sitting Senators who opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We aim to exact a cost from the deal’s most strident opponents, who tried at every turn to undercut the very negotiations that led to the historic defanging of Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Ben-Ami says. “And in the same breath, or 30-second ad, such as it is, we’ll bolster those candidates who represent a new approach to conflict resolution and American diplomatic leadership in the Middle East and beyond.”
The campaign’s first television ads, which began running in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin this morning, make the case for how the Iran deal is both working and backed by a long, scrolling list of American and Israeli security experts. It contrasts Katie McGinty’s and Russ Feingold’s support for the JCPOA with Senators Pat Toomey and Ron Johnson’s opposition, tying the two Republican candidates to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has called the nuclear deal “the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated” and threatened to “tear up” the agreement on his first day in office.
For their part, Toomey and Johnson voted repeatedly to impose new sanctions against Iran during the negotiations, which would have undermined diplomatic efforts and collapsed the international sanctions regime. Both Senators also tried to scuttle diplomatic efforts by appealing directly to the Supreme Leader of Iran in a letter asserting that any agreement reached could be reversed after President Obama leaves office.
The Iran deal has emerged as a central issue in the political debate this cycle in what is being billed as a national security election. The agreement has been touted by Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton and by Vice Presidential Nominee Tim Kaine from the convention podium in Philadelphia and in the first national debates. Support for it has been echoed by Senate and House candidates all along the campaign trail.
Meanwhile, Republican groups across the country are spending millions of dollars on ads attacking Democrats over the deal.
“We’re certainly familiar with being outspent, but we’re not afraid. During the fight to uphold the agreement in Congress last summer, tens of millions of dollars were spent against the deal to our $5.5 million in support of it – and still backers of the deal prevailed,” Ben-Ami says.
“That’s because the facts are on our side – the deal is being successfully implemented and has effectively defanged Iran’s nuclear weapons program, all without firing a single shot. Our opponents have the much steeper hill to climb in needing to convince people that the world is flat, all evidence to the contrary,” Ben-Ami adds.
J Street ran a successful, high-profile $5.5M campaign last year in support of the agreement in Congress, which included targeted television, print and digital ads in key media markets around the country. As part of the campaign, the pro-Israel, pro-peace group also commissioned national polls of the Jewish community and brought top Israeli military and intelligence experts to explain their support for the agreement on Capitol Hill.
J Street is committed to ensuring that every candidate who voted to uphold the deal in Congress last summer is returned to office, and is joined by challengers who are standing up for the deal along the campaign trail.
“For us, this political fight represents the second chapter in the struggle to uphold the Iran nuclear agreement – and one that is every bit as important as the initial policy win,” says Ben-Ami. “We need now to put candidates in office not only to defend against ongoing efforts to sink the deal in Congress, but also to protect the important precedent its passage set for pro-diplomacy-first policies going forward.”