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Lugar super PAC readies $100,000 attack in primary

INDIANAPOLIS – A super PAC supporting Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar will spend next week attacking his Republican primary opponent and a separate super PAC as outside groups begin playing a greater role in Indiana’s Republican primary.

Hoosiers for Economic Growth and Jobs posted the ad online Friday, ripping the anti-tax Club for Growth for supporting state Treasurer Richard Mourdock’s campaign. The super PAC is spending $100,000 to air the ad on Indianapolis television stations next week.

“A Super PAC is attacking another Super PAC for being a ‘special interest,’ and attacking a former congressman who is not a candidate in the race. That sounds about as confusing as trying to figure out which state Dick Lugar lives in,” Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said Friday, referring in part to questions about Lugar’s residency that have become an issue during the campaign.

But Hoosiers for Economic Growth and Jobs spokesman Robert Vane noted that Club for Growth drew the first blood when it endorsed Mourdock last month and began running ads against Lugar.

“When you start a fight within the family, you can’t complain about what happens next,” Vane said.

The infighting stretches beyond the Republican Party. The new ad targets Club for Growth president Chris Chocola, accusing him of “bailing out” Mourdock’s campaign by promising to spend heavily in Indiana against Lugar. Chocola is a former Indiana congressman who recently has berated Lugar for opposing a ban on federal earmarks — Lugar’s campaign has noted Chocola supported earmarks for northern Indiana when he was in Congress.

Super PACs and national interest groups are taking a more dominant role in the primary battle as the May 8 election draws closer. Hoosiers for Economic Growth and Jobs said in a mailer to supporters it plans to raise $1.75 million. A separate Lugar Super PAC, Indiana Values, plans to spend more than $1 million supporting Lugar, group treasurer Andy Klingenstein said this week.

The spending should greatly bolster the Lugar campaign, which held a 10-1 cash advantage over Mourdock at the start of the year. But major national tea party groups and conservative groups have flocked to Mourdock’s side in a battle where they see their best chance at knocking off the six-term incumbent Lugar.

The Club for Growth has spent more than $250,000 on an ad attacking Lugar that will run statewide through next week.

National tea party organizer FreedomWorks has already spent $100,000 supporting Mourdock and plans to spend more money in the state after it finishes battling Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

The Hoosiers for Economic Growth and Jobs ad also features a photo of Mourdock pulled from the Indianapolis Tea Party’s “Hunks of the Right” 2010 calendar. The Lugar campaign pulled the image from a separate ad after an Indianapolis photographer complained of copyright infringement. Photographer Dale Hanke said Friday he contacted Hoosiers for Economic Growth and Jobs and asked them to stop using the image.

The campaign ads filling the airwaves aren’t just cannon fodder. An Indiana tea partier filed a complaint alleging that Attorney General Greg Zoeller improperly used his office to benefit Lugar in a separate campaign ad the Lugar campaign aired this week.

Zoeller is featured prominently in in the ad with Lugar touting their opposition to the federal health care reform law.

Indiana resident Teresa Martin requested in a letter Thursday that Inspector General David Thomas open an investigation.

“The use of state tax dollars for political activity is unfair to taxpayers and undermines confidence in our state’s government,” Martin wrote.

Zoeller spokesman Bryan Corbin said the ad does not violate state rules because it was a public use of the office. He noted that the news conference was heavily promoted and was open to anyone who wanted to attend.