Congressional ‘Perks’ Under Siege in Midterm Ads (Video)

Posted September 28, 2014 at 4:01am
Congressional Perks Under Siege in Midterm Ads (Video)
Peterson, seen here on the Hill with his band in 2012, has been scrutinized in campaign ads for accepting congressional 'perks.' (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Flights home from Washington, D.C., a six-figure salary and the House gym: They’re all perks of the congressional gig.

They’re also political collateral in more than a dozen House races this cycle.

In political ad after political ad, challengers are taking aim at incumbents for accepting “perks” in a Congress mired in gridlock. Incumbents feel the heat, emphasizing their own commitment to ending taxpayer-funded congressional benefits.

The irony, of course, is that the winning challengers will have access to the same salary and benefits as soon as they’re sworn into office in January. But operatives from both parties argue the message remains potent in a political environment where Congress is unpopular.

“Look, if you were any other person on the planet and you didn’t do your job and you still got paid and all the perks that came with it — the only other place you can do that is Wall Street, and they’re not so popular themselves,” said Democratic consultant Travis Lowe, who has made ads attacking GOP incumbents and their perks this cycle. “So of course, it hits a chord.”

Lowe is leveraging those lines of attack for Democrat Ann Callis, a former judge challenging Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois’ 13th District.

Davis “shut down the government, but kept his own taxpayer-funded perks like a private gym and first class flights,” a narrator says in a Callis spot made by Lowe. Another ad from Callis’ campaign charges Davis with spending $40,000 at steak houses in Washington, D.C., but cutting funding for Medicare.