The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC supporting conservative candidates for Congress, launched a new ad in Texas Monday rehashing an FBI raid conducted earlier this year on incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar.
“You’ve seen how Henry Cuellar makes Washington work for him: Private plane. Luxury apartment. Lining his own pockets. And next thing you know,” the narrator trails off as the ad cuts to footage of a raid early this year on Cuellar’s home.
Footage from a report about the raid plays as a news anchor reports that there was “reason to believe investigators would find evidence of a crime.”
Another report describes the raid: “Federal agents with huge bags, computers, plastic bins.”
The final clip from news of the raid shows an anchor saying, “It’s not a good look when you are a member of Congress and the FBI raids your home.”
The ad then cuts back to the narrator.
“Henry Cuellar: Enriching himself, embarrassing you.”
The FBI raided Cuellar’s home in January, just two months before a contentious Primary that saw Cuellar fighting for re-election to his 10th term in Texas’ 28th Congressional District.
He managed to stave off defeat from within his own party, defeating progressive candidate Jessica Cisneros in a recount by just 289 votes.
The raid, which lacked details about any alleged crime and did not include charges or an indictment, raised questions about the U.S. Justice Department’s timing. Typically, the government agency is cautious about when to conduct such raids when doing so could have an effect on an election.
“In general, the department has shied away from taking any overt investigative actions against political figures when an election is looming,” former Justice Department official Emily Pierce told the Texas Tribune. Pierce and other former department officials told The Texas Tribune the Justice Department tends to be sensitive to optics that could sully a candidate’s reputation before they have an opportunity to defend themselves in the legal system.
The raid has also prompted news outlets, including the Texas Tribune, the Associated Press, Gannett, Gray Media Group an Hearst to ask a federal court to unseal the search warrant, search warrant applications and supporting affidavits related to the January raid.
ABC News reported previously that a grand jury sought records related to Cuellar, his wife and one of his campaign staffers over connections to Azerbaijan. Cuellar is a member of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus and has frequently advocated for the oil-rich country. The Associated Press confirmed the report.
Cuellar faces GOP challenger Cassy Garcia in the Nov. 8 General Election. POLITICO rates the race a toss-up in the Democrat-leaning district, noting that while Cuellar has an advantage through incumbency, the two candidates are evenly matched in fundraising (Garcia has struggled to raise funds, but Cuellar was force to deplete much of his war chest fending off his Primary challenge) and in overall candidate quality. Meanwhile, long-term trends favor Garcia.