With one week to go before the state primary, TV ad wars are raging in Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's campaign is launching its fourth television attack ad in about two weeks against Republican challenger Weston Wamp today.
The ad, set to run in the Chattanooga and Knoxville markets, criticizes Wamp's involvement in an insurance brokerage company launched by Wamp's employer that connects clients with Affordable Care Act health plans.
"Weston is founding director of a company invested in Obamacare. Why would he criticize the president when Obama is making him money?" the Fleischmann ad asks.
Meanwhile, Wamp has a new TV spot, too. It bashes Fleischmann for flooding the airwaves with political attacks.
"So Chuck Fleischmann's running negative TV ads ... again. But we're not slowing down. There's too much to get done, and right now, nobody's doing it," the Wamp ad script says.
Wamp works for Lamp Post Group, a startup incubator in Chattanooga that has helped fund and launch dozens of companies. He consults with startup companies on marketing and press strategies.
The new Fleischmann ad seeks to convince conservative voters that Wamp would not oppose President Barack Obama or the ACA because one of those companies is American Exchange. The Chattanooga-based insurance brokerage group makes its money by connecting people with subsidized health insurance made possible by the health care law.
The Times Free Press reported in February that American Exchange was birthed to fill a market created by the ACA. The startup sought to connect employees of small businesses that couldn't afford to insure them with subsidized individual plans on the federal online marketplace.
Now -- after the April open enrollment deadline -- the company's website makes no mention of subsidized insurance, or health care exchanges, and bills itself as a brokerage group.
The Fleischmann camp might be right about American Exchange's business model. But Wamp said Wednesday the Lamp Post Group has worked with up to 20 companies over four years, and he has nothing to do with the insurance brokerage firm.
"Those of us in leadership positions [at Lamp Post Group] have the opportunity to work with many separate companies. We don't all work with the same ones. I have never had a working relationship with American Exchange," Wamp said. "That's just such a stretch and I think people are just going to see right through it."
But Fleischmann spokesman Conner Ingram doesn't buy that.
He says Wamp has long touted his extensive involvement at the Lamp Post Group, with which American Exchange shares an address.
"The crystal clear fact is that Weston has a financial interest in the promotion of Obamacare," Ingram said.
Wamp said the new Fleischmann ad is the fourth TV ad of its kind -- and follows a mailer that included a digitally altered image of Wamp burning a passport that Wamp called "intellectually dishonest."
But Wamp said he thinks the negative ads are only helping him. He predicts Aug. 7 is "going to be a referendum on negative politics."
"I will commend them [Fleischmann's campaign] in breaking a congressional record by running four negative campaign ads in 10 days," Wamp said.
"I hear from more and more people who can't believe that a four-year incumbent congressman can't run on his own record," he said. "We've got an ad coming out [today] too, and no one will be surprised, it's positive."
The winner of the Aug. 7 Republican primary will face Democrat Mary Headrick in November.
Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6481.
Louie Brogdon began reporting with the Chattanooga Times Free Press in February 2013. Before he came to the Scenic City, Louie lived on St. Simons Island, Ga. and covered crime, courts, environment and government at the Brunswick News, a 17,000-circulation daily on the Georgia coast. While there, he was awarded for investigative reporting on police discipline and other law enforcement issues by the Georgia Press Association. For the Times Free Press, Louie covers Hamilton County ...