New attack ads against the Virginia gubernatorial nominee Glenn Youngkin are not what they seem.
A series of social media ads attacking Youngkin over his lack of endorsements from gun-rights groups in the state were revealed to be the work of a shadowy political action committee on Monday. Accountability Virginia PAC has spent over $25,000 on anti-Youngkin ads that have been viewed upwards of 5 million times, according to Axios.
“While the NRA backs Donald Trump, they REFUSED to endorse Glenn Youngkin,” one of the group’s Facebook ads reads. “We can’t trust Glenn Youngkin on guns. Youngkin should tell us the truth about where he stands.”
While it is true Youngkin has not been endorsed by the NRA or the Virginia Citizens Defense League, there are several reasons to believe those funding and running Accountability Virginia are less concerned about that than they are about harming Youngkin’s chances in the race. The group was created in July 2021 by the consulting firm Mele, Brengarth, & Associates, which boasts about providing services to “the most active, progressive Super PAC’s in the 2012 and 2014 cycles” on its website. Accountability Virginia is also using ActBlue, a fundraising portal for Democrat candidates and progressive causes, to collect donations.
The group has been airing its ads in predominantly Republican sections of Virginia. Polling shows the race between Youngkin and his Democratic rival Terry McAuliffe is tight as the off-year election for control of the Virginia statehouse heats up. If the ads can convince enough gun voters to stay home on election day, it could swing the race in favor of McAuliffe. That would give Democrats a significant win in a bellwether race despite President Joe Biden’s sinking approval rating.
Youngkin’s campaign decried the ads as misleading.
“The McAuliffe-Michael Bloomberg political machine can try to manipulate and deceive voters, but Virginians aren’t falling for McAuliffe’s lies,” Macaulay Porter, a Youngkin spokesperson, told The Reload. “Constitutional conservatives and people who care about protecting our Second Amendment rights are voting for Glenn Youngkin today because they know he supports the right to keep and bear arms.”
Neither Accountability Virginia nor Mele, Brengarth, & Associates responded to a request for comment.
McAuliffe has taken a different approach to Youngkin’s positions on gun policy. While Accountability Virginia has attacked Youngkin for not being pro-gun enough, McAuliffe has attacked him for being too pro-gun. In an ad released last week, McAuliffe’s campaign railed against Youngkin for opposing new gun-control measures.
McAuliffe tweeted out the ad with a link to his campaign’s fundraising page, which is also hosted by ActBlue.
Youngkin’s campaign said the candidate is a “lifetime NRA member” and a gun owner. Youngkin has said he opposes the law passed by Democrats that allows localities to pass their own restrictions on gun carry in 2020. The campaign said Youngkin does not support an “assault weapons” ban, unlike McAuliffe who backed Democrats’ failed attempt to implement one as part of last year’s gun-control push.
It pointed The Reload to previous comments framing the VCDL and NRA survey as a waste of time when asked why he hadn’t filed them out.
“Politicians love to fill out surveys, but just like President Trump, Glenn isn’t a politician and isn’t spending all his time filling out surveys,” the campaign told The Richmond Times-Dispatch in July.
Porter said the choice between Youngkin and McAuliffe, who supports passing stricter gun laws, is clear.
“Letting a Nancy Pelosi-backed left-wing radical like Terry McAuliffe become governor again would be a serious mistake because he wants to repeal the Second Amendment and confiscate your guns,” she told The Reload.
The two candidates will face off in the final of their two debates on Tuesday night.