Dave Brat gets help from FreedomWorks

Rep. Dave Brat, the Republican who, in 2014, began the purge of the GOP's House leadership, is drawing early re-election support from a free-spending free-market political action committee. 

Voters in the freshman congressman's Virginia district are paying closer attention to next year's presidential election than to Brat's first defense of the seat he took from then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary election last year.

But FreedomWorks, a nationally prominent pro-market PAC, is producing a series of video ads singing the praises of Brat and other insurgents who have been elected to the House in recent cycles. 

Though FreedomWorks has drawn negative attention to itself through risqué advertising and a pricey 2013 management dispute, the organization is an influential player in conservative politics. FreedomWorks has spent millions of dollars in recent election cycles supporting outsider congressional candidates.

On Brat's behalf, FreedomWorks is buying time on Fox News and other cable outlets to air a 30-second spot describing the free-market economist as a "reformer, a conservative, a leader" who is "fighting to change Congress." 

FreedomWorks communications director Jason Pye told AMI Newswire the ads, which began running on Oct. 5, and will air through the beginning of next week, signal early support for "pro-freedom candidates as well as defending members of the House Freedom Caucus." 

Brat, who shocked the political world with his upset primary victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014, could face big, national opposition in his first re-election bid. He is an outspoken member of the Freedom Caucus, which has publicly clashed with Republican leaders over a host of issues ranging from immigration reform to renewal of the Export-Import Bank. 

FreedomWorks for America has also created clips supporting Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp and North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, using a template identical to that of the Brat spot. 

"We're making it known we like these guys, and we will defend and support them,"  Pye said. 

Meadows is the author of a controversial House motion to declare the speakership vacant, which would force a new election for the position. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who is considering a bid for the speakership, wants Meadows to withdraw his motion as a sign of unity in the GOP caucus.

While no candidates have come forward to challenge Brat, and no national organizations have made moves to generate opposition to his re-election, Brat and his allies believe such an effort is coming.

Brat's office pointed AMI Newswire to an interview the congressman conducted with the Washington Examiner in August, in which the congressman criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce specifically for its support of the Export-Import Bank and for what Brat called "delivering cheap labor to big corporations via amnesty for illegal immigrants."

FreedomWorks' Pye said the U.S. Chamber could contemplate a campaign against Brat and other Freedom Caucus members, though there are no reports of specific plans to do so.

"We will do everything we can to support Freedom Caucus members like David Brat, including mobilizing our own members and supporters to help them in their re-election bids," Pye said. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce did not respond to requests from AMI Newswire for comment.

Chris Saxman, executive director of the pro-business group Virginia FREE told AMI Newswire he has only heard vague speculation about a challenge to Rep. Brat.  But he said the FreedomWorks for America ads indicate the uncertain political landscape Brat and others face next year.

"There's a reason they are dong these ads a year out," Saxman said. "If the courts substantially redraw the district, that's a problem for Brat."

Virginia's congressional district lines could be altered across much of the state by a federal appeals court, which ruled one district had unconstitutionally packed African-Americans inside its boundaries.

Saxman said the ads are also a show of force.

"They are trying to dissuade a potential challenger, showing Brat has national support and money behind him," Saxman said. "It also helps raise his name ID and could help build his campaign infrastructure, which really hasn't grown beyond the coalition that helped him win in 2014."