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Amy and Patrick Kennedy. Photo courtesy of the ACEs Connection Network.

Harrison, Cunningham focus attacks on Kennedy support from super PACs

Kennedy stops short of telling America’s Future First to stay out of her race

By Nikita Biryukov, June 16 2020 5:04 pm

Democratic House candidates in the 2nd congressional district have their sights set on Amy Kennedy.

Will Cunningham and Brigid Harrison, two of Kennedy’s primary opponents, launched separate attacks against the former school teacher this week, jabbing her over mailers sent by a super PAC backing her candidacy and over her reluctance to back increased legal liability for police unions.

“If Amy is saying publicly that she is ‘anti-super PAC,’ then her actions must match her words.  Instead, Amy continues to say one thing and do another,” Harrison said Tuesday. “This pattern of behavior is troubling and resembles the person we are all fighting to beat — Jeff Van Drew.”

Kennedy recently faced fire over the Blue Organizing Project, a super PAC funded exclusively by a $500,000 donation from Kennedy’s husband, former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-R.I.)

The group spent $75,000 on ads attacking Harrison before its source of funding came to light. After it did, she called on the PAC to pull out of the race, adding that other single-candidate super PACs should steer clear of the second district’s primary.

But her campaign issued no such call for America’s Future First, another super PAC that spent $30,802 on mailers boosting Kennedy.

“Unlike Brigid Harrison, Amy has taken the no corporate PAC money pledge and has called on all single candidate super PACs not to spend any money in this race,” Kennedy campaign manager Josh Roesch said. “As far as we can tell, this PAC has also communicated in support of other candidates.”

The $30,802 mail campaign is the only expenditure America’s Future First has reported this year.

The issue is complicated by an endorsement Kennedy received from End Citizens United, a political action committee that seeks to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision for which it is named.

The group’s opposition to dark money and unrestricted independent political spending puts Kennedy in a somewhat tense position, though End Citizens United has yet to signal any withdrawal of support over the Blue Organizing Project or other super PACs involved in the second district race.

That’s good for Kennedy, who’s still using the group’s endorsement and the pledge it requires its endorsed candidates to take to bludgeon Harrison over her ties to South Jersey’s Democratic powerbrokers.

“I might not be a political science professor, but even I can figure out why Brigid has refused to take the pledge and disavow single candidate super PACs — she is waiting for the cavalry to come in to save her losing campaign, in the form of the corrupt South Jersey political machine spending money to influence this race,” Roesch said.

Harrison won the backing of six of the second district’s eight Democratic county organizations and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-West Deptford) days after Van Drew (R-Dennis) defected to the Republican party.

The implication is clear: Harrison has George Norcross behind her.

But unlike the groups backing Kennedy, groups with ties to the Norcross-Sweeney wing of the party have yet to spend any money in NJ-2.

“And rather than throw around meaningless pledges, I can personally say, without hesitation or embellishment, that I have not taken one dollar of corporate PAC money,” Harrison said. “And so while Amy hems and qualifies, Amy’s actions show us all that her word means literally nothing and all of South Jersey knows it.”

Harrison, to be clear, has not taken the End Citizens United pledge.

Kennedy is facing fire on a separate front.

Cunningham, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who has endorsed Harrison, attacked Kennedy over her reluctance to support making police unions responsible for paying settlements that arise out of lawsuits for police misconduct.

“Would we still be able to convince people to go into a field — a needed field — if the liability is there and the expense, and if it’s shifted to the union, could the union bear that?” Kennedy said during a candidate forum hosted by the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Southern New Jersey Chapter.

The candidate, who said more than once that she had not considered the issue before, added that such a policy could encourage police unions to fire problem officers but stopped short of endorsing such a system.

That wasn’t enough for Cunningham.

“Amy Kennedy’s answer to this question is unacceptable for someone running for Congress,” Cunningham said on Twitter. “No more research into this topic is necessary. It is widely recognized that police unions aggressively protect officers accused of misconduct + prevent these cases from reaching the public eye.”

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