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Commentary: 10 weeks into his term, the attacks against Greg Landsman have already begun

Greg Landsman sits for an interview with the Associated Press, Sept. 16, 2022, in Cincinnati.
Aaron Doster
Greg Landsman sits for an interview with the Associated Press, Sept. 16, 2022, in Cincinnati.

Greg Landsman has only been in Congress for 10 weeks.

Barely long enough to figure out how his electronic voting card works and to sample the famous bean soup in the House cafeteria.

But, already, Republicans have drawn out the long knives for the freshman congressman from Mt. Washington.

The American Action Network, a 501(c)(4) organization closely aligned with the Republican Party, is spending $2 million on TV ads in 14 congressional districts around the country, including Landsman's 1st District of Ohio, making the dubious claim that President Biden and his Democratic cohorts in Congress have made cuts to Medicare Advantage plans that are taking money out of the pockets of millions of seniors.

The claim is nonsense.

Nonetheless, if you watch any local news programs on Cincinnati TV stations, you have no doubt seen this ad which accuses Landsman of being "silent" on this so-called assault on the Medicare Advantage coverage.

What you will not see is any public accounting of exactly who is paying for this ad campaign, clearly meant to soften up Landsman and other Democratic House members far in advance of their 2024 re-election campaigns.

RELATED: New Congressman Landsman: 'I expect to spend more time in the district than Washington'

As a 501(c)(4), American Action Network is a "dark money" group that isn't required to disclose where the money came from for their "public education" campaigns.

The ad doesn't say viewers should vote for or against Landsman or anyone else, it just tells them to call his congressional office and tell him how they feel about cutting Medicare benefits.

"They are spending millions of dollars to run these ads, but the problem is, who is 'they?' " Landsman said. "There's no accounting. It's very revealing in terms of what is broken about our politics."

There are two other Ohio Democrats targeted in their districts by the American Action Network: Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Toledo, the longest serving woman in history of the U.S. House; and Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, a first-term congresswoman.

Both Kaptur and Sykes were elected last fall over opponents who were dyed-in-the-wool, over-the-top MAGA loyalists, both of whom believed the fantasy that Donald Trump was re-elected in 2020.

And Landsman, a former Cincinnati council member, took out an old GOP warhorse, Steve Chabot, who had seemingly lost interest in the job after a quarter of a century in office.

ANALYSIS: Analysis: Steve Chabot lost a race he shouldn't have run in the first place

The so-called cuts to Medicare Advantage were a tale spun during last year's mid-term elections by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida who was heading up the GOP's ultimately unsuccessful attempt to regain control of the Senate.

It was debunked at the time by multiple news organizations, but Scott — and now, the American Action Network — are repeating them again.

Here are the facts:

The president's Inflation Reduction Act, passed by congressional Democrats last year, does reduce the government's spending on prescription drugs by $237 billion over the next 10 years.

But that is because the government will be able to negotiate lower prices with the drug companies, not by reducing benefits to Medicare recipients.

Dark money groups, though, rarely let facts get in the way of a good story.

The fact that Landsman is already being attacked by a dark money group and by the National Republican Congressional Committee has prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to put Landsman's district on a list of 29 around the country seen as potentially vulnerable in the 2024 election cycle.

The DCCC's "Frontline" program will assign additional help with fundraising and messaging to at-risk members. Sykes and Kaptur are also on that DCCC list.

Perhaps, though, the biggest threat to Landsman comes not from dark money attack ads but from the Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission.

Last year, the ongoing battle between Ohio Republican leaders and the Ohio Supreme Court over redistricting ended up with a weird result.

Ohio ended up using a congressional district map that had already been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

But it did make life easier for Landsman in his contest with Chabot because it put all of the heavily Democratic city of Cincinnati into the 1st District.

Without that, Landsman would likely still be a member of Cincinnati City Council. No congressional bean soup for you!

Now, though, thanks to the election of Justice Sharon Kennedy as chief justice and the appointment of former Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters to replace Kennedy, the Republicans have a four-member majority on the Ohio Supreme Court that would likely approve a new map, returning the 1st District to its more GOP-friendly status.

And that would make Landsman's re-election campaign a 50-50 ball rather than a slam dunk.

RELATED: A timeline of Ohio's redistricting saga

None of it seems to bother Landsman. He is going about his business.

"I am going to stay completely focused on doing this job," Landsman said.

Wednesday, Landsman introduced his first bill — one that would cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month for children and young people age 26 or younger. And he has been busy lining up bipartisan support.

He said he pays little attention at this point to the attacks from the right, or the threat to the make-up of his district.

"It's a waste of money," Landsman said. "They are running this ad just to muddy the waters.

"It's all so very far from what people want," Landsman said. "When I talk to people in the district, what I hear is that people wonder why they are still doing these ads. They are so unbelievable."

Nonetheless, the ads will go on as long as the dark money holds out. And when this pot of dark money runs out, they'll go find some more. It seems to be a bottomless pit.

There is only one piece of advice I can offer when you see this ad on your local news station.

Just remember that your remote control has a mute button. You're allowed to use it.

Copyright 2023 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.