Delaney airs ad to tout infrastructure bill

WASHINGTON -- He won't face a challenge in next week's primary election, but Rep. John Delaney nevertheless began running television advertisements on Wednesday.

The Potomac Democrat is buying airtime to highlight what has been his signature legislative effort since arriving in Congress last year, a proposal to allow companies to repatriate a portion of their overseas cash, tax free, if they make investments in the nation's infrastructure.

The spot is running on broadcast television in Hagerstown, Md., and on cable in the Washington media market.

"America needs jobs and we need to rebuild our critical infrastructure," Delaney says in the 60-second ad. "If we combine business common sense and put solutions ahead of partisanship we can create jobs and rebuild our country."

The ads are the latest unusual step for Delaney, a former banker and first-term lawmaker who has doggedly pursued the complicated proposal with the zeal of a more senior member. He has secured 83 House and Senate co-sponsors since introducing the legislation last May -- and that support is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

The idea has received media attention from outside Maryland, including praise earlier this year in a Financial Times editorial. 

Delaney estimates his proposal would create a $50 billion infrastructure fund that could be leveraged into $750 billion in job-creating projects without spending directly from government coffers.

But while Democrats, including President Barack Obama, widely support the idea of creating an infrastructure bank, some oppose funding that effort with repatriated cash. Notably, 30 groups -- from the Center for American Progress to the American Federation of Government Employees -- wrote a letter last summer opposing the proposal.

"A repatriation tax amnesty is a costly and unwarranted tax break," the groups wrote. "With Congress struggling to address the projected long-term deficits while continuing to fund public priorities, allowing corporations to bring back profits stashed overseas at a very low -- or zero -- tax rate is a narrowly targeted tax break that is unjustifiable."

The groups want the overseas holdings to come back at a full tax rate. Delaney supporters say that is unlikely to happen anytime soon, particularly since comprehensive tax reform efforts have stalled in Washington this year. 

Delaney, who beat an establishment pick in the 2012 Democratic primary and went on to unseat incumbent Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in the general, paid for the advertising through his campaign, an aide said. Delaney loaned his campaign money to cover the cost of the ads, but a spokesman declined to say how much he spent out of pocket.

The transaction will ultimately be reported to the Federal Election Commission next month.

Though Delaney has no opposition in the primary election, he is likely to face Daniel Bongino in the general election this fall, assuming the Republican clears his own primary. Bongino, a former Secret Service agent, won the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012 but lost to incumbent Democrat Ben Cardin.

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