A leading conservative group is hammering U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette with a digital ad linking the Denver Democrat to Biden administration polices the group claims have led to soaring gas prices, but a spokesman for DeGette told Colorado Politics she holds oil companies responsible for much of the pain consumers are feeling at the pump.
The American Action Network, a conservative nonprofit tied to the House Republicans, announced on July 7 that it's including an ad targeting DeGette in a multi-million dollar round of broadcast and digital ads urging lawmakers to expand domestic energy production.
Part of a a $8.5 million summer campaign targeting House Democrats who serve on key committees, the "high five figures" a spokesman for the group said it's spending on the DeGette ad appears to be only a fraction of totals the conservative group announced it's allocating for broadcast and digital advertising aimed at some incumbents running in more competitive districts. Spending on the ad, which is running on YouTube, Facebook and other digital platforms, could increase in the future, the spokesman said.
A member of the House Energy and Commerce and Natural Resources committees, DeGette is running for a 14th term in the heavily Democratic 1st Congressional District, whose boundaries mostly coincide with Denver's city limits.
In the 15-second ad, a narrator says President Joe Biden and DeGette "turned off American energy production, put the brakes on pipelines and future drilling projects, costing jobs and sending gas prices through the roof." As the phone number to DeGette's congressional office appears on screen, the ad urges viewers to "tell Congresswoman DeGette to help open American energy production and lower gas prices."
The ad also displays the bill number for the American Energy Independence from Russia Act, Republican legislation to encourage oil and gas leasing on federal lands, authorize construction of a pipeline cancelled by Biden in the first days of his administration and lift restrictions on natural gas exports, among other provisions.
The bill, HR 6858, has languished in the Democratic-controlled House since its introduction in late February. Colorado Republicans Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn are among the bill's 140 co-sponsors.
A spokesman for DeGette rejected the ad's contentions.
"If Big Oil wanted to increase production and help alleviate the pain Americans are feeling at the pump, they could do so tomorrow," Ryan Brown, DeGette's communications director, said in an email.
"Big Oil executives, themselves, have admitted there is no current government regulation preventing them from drilling for more oil if they wanted to. The problem isn’t a lack of available resources for Big Oil, the problem is their greed. Instead of stepping up to help bring down prices at the pump, Big Oil is using the crisis in Ukraine to rake in record profits on the backs of hardworking Americans."
The conservative group is spending considerably more on similar, 30-second ads targeting Democratic U.S. Reps. Jared Golden of Maine, Dina Titus of Nevada, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Sharice Davids of Kansas and Frank Pallone of New Jersey. A handful of other Democratic House members are seeing ads in their district that focus on a scaled-back, Democratic-led budget reconciliation bill, with the group arguing that the spending could fuel inflation.
“Families are struggling to get by, gas and groceries are at record highs, and yet Joe Biden and his liberal allies in Congress are doubling down on the same reckless policies that left the economy in shambles to begin with,” said Dan Conston, American Action Network president, in a statement. “Congress needs an about-face quickly before Biden’s harmful policies make life even more expensive for working Americans.”
The fact-checkers at FactCheck.org ruled last week that the factors cited in the conservative group's ads don't have nearly as much to do with high gas prices as the energy market's rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and market manipulation by a recently formed 23-nation cartel. Another prominent factor, according to a survey of oil and gas executives cited by the fact-check site, has been pressure from investors to prioritize profits.
The same group took aim last year at U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, the Arvada Democrat who announced in January that he isn't running for reelection, as part of a $20 million campaign opposed to Biden's Build Back Better agenda.