By Gregory Wallace and Paul Steinhauser, CNN
(CNN) — A conservative group is planning a television and online ad campaign urging senators to vote against former Sen. Chuck Hagel at his confirmation hearings to be secretary of defense.
The American Future Fund plans to run television ads in Washington and in certain states against Obama’s nominee, the group said, as well as print ads, web spots, and a website. They call it an “all the above” strategy that “will be nationwide, focused on the many disqualifying characteristics of the Hagel nomination – including not only his now well-known statements against Israel and his weak opposition to the Iranian nuclear threat, but also his to be disclosed personal, business and ethical conflicts.”
Hagel is a former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska and is seen as President Barack Obama’s most controversial nominee for his second-term cabinet. Hagel has faced criticism some on both sides of the aisle as a controversial nominee because of past positions he has taken on Israel, Iran and U.S. military action. Critics have also objected to his description in 1998 of an ambassadorial nominee as “openly, aggressively gay” – for which he has since apologized — and his 2007 remark that the “Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers.”
One of the first print ads targets Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, impressing on him to not “abandon Israel now.” Schumer said after a face-to-face meeting with Hagel this week that he had overcome his reservations towards the nominee.
“You’ve been a loyal friend of Israel throughout your career,” the ad reads, addressing Schumer. “But now you’re supporting a Republican for secretary of defense who not only lacks your track record of defending Israel, but who has been on the opposite side of key issues involving Israel’s security and the future of the Middle East.”
Schumer and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, are perhaps the two highest-profile Jewish senators who have announced their support for Hagel after speaking privately with him in recent days.
The American Future Fund and its political action sister group spent millions against President Barack Obama and on races for the U.S. House and Senate last year. They spent over $25 million in independent expenditures on the 2012 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money spent in politics.
The group’s founder, Nick Ryan, wrote in a statement that their strong opposition of Hagel comes because he has exhibited “a pattern of unethical behavior” including “trading favors with industries the American people trusted him to regulate.”
“Hagel’s politically expedient change of heart regarding Iran policy and shallow apologies proves he is just another politician willing to say anything to gain power,” Ryan wrote.
The Log Cabin Republicans, which represents gay Republicans, has also taken out ads against Hagel.
His supporters recently launched a group to come to his defense, but have not yet announced a pro-Hagel campaign plan.
Obama announced Hagel as his pick for the top Pentagon job about a week and a half ago.
Some details of the AFF ad buy was first reported by Politico.