Using congressional ethics and Social Security as wedge issues, labor and allied Democratic groups are turning up the heat on Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds in a run-up to next year's midterm congressional elections.
A progressive organization, Campaign for America's Future, began targeting the Clarence Republican in TV ads Thursday for his support of embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
The group counts a number of Democratic, academic and minority leaders, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and former labor secretary Robert Reich, among its advisers.
"These groups are funded by Democratic heavy hitters like George Soros (a major donor to Moveon.org, a group that opposed President Bush's re-election,)" DeLay's press secretary, Dan Allen, told The Buffalo News.
The ads call on Reynolds, once considered invulnerable, to repudiate DeLay, who has reshaped the House Ethics Committee to protect himself against potential campaign fraud charges brought by a Texas prosecutor.
"Tom DeLay is a national embarrassment. He should resign his leadership position, if not his office," says a narrator in the 30-second ads being run in DeLay's and Reynolds' districts.
In addition, on Wednesday night, an affiliate of Working Families demanded Reynolds "come clean" on his position on President Bush's proposal to privatize Social Security. Working Families endorsed Reynolds' 2004 congressional opponent, Akron industrialist Jack Davis.
The group, New Yorkers United to Protect Social Security, at a meeting in Amherst, echoed a similar demand made recently on Reynolds by the New York State Democratic Committee.
"The event was very clearly sponsored by a political party and Moveon.org," said Michael Brady, Reynolds' chief of staff.
"It was very clearly a political rally, not a public debate on Social Security."
However, Moveon.org was not among the 51 labor, college, minority, neighborhood and Democratic clubs listed among New Yorkers United's supporters on its Web site.
Reynolds last year strongly defended DeLay after then-Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas, filed corruption charges against DeLay with the House Ethics Committee.
DeLay has been admonished three times recently by the Ethics Committee. Since then, he and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., have removed the Republican committee chairman and put two contributors to DeLay's legal defense fund on the panel.
A nonpartisan alliance of reform groups, led by Democracy 21, has asked Hastert, R-Ill., to promptly reconstitute the Ethics Committee the way it was and consider any pending charges against DeLay.
Brady said those who see the ad should be aware that it is financed in part by Soros. "When they realize who is paying for the ad," Brady said, "I think people will see that it doesn't stand for Western New York values."
The group's targeting of Reynolds "is natural when you consider that he is a House leader and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee."
Although Bush has been on the road since Feb. 3 to sell his plan to divert up to a third of the payroll tax to pay for personal retirement accounts, Reynolds has declined to support the president. DeLay has.
Reynolds issued a statement last week that voices interest in private accounts but insisted he is only "keeping an open mind" on the question.
While making his first run for public office, Davis, a Republican turned Democrat, cut Reynolds' majority last year to 55 percent from 74 percent in 2002 in a heavily Republican district. Davis has said he is considering another challenge to Reynolds and has met here with House Democratic leaders.
Bureau assistant Patti Truant contributed to this article.