- Associated Press - Thursday, August 3, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A super PAC supporting Sen. Luther Strange is keeping the heat on his Republican rivals in the Alabama Senate race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat.

The Senate Leadership Fund this week launched a television ad highlighting the compensation that former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his wife received from the Christian charity and legal organization he founded. The Senate primary has erupted into a GOP civil war as Strange seeks to beat back a slate of firebrand challengers such as Moore in the Aug. 15 primary.

Moore is expected to be a favorite among some religious right voters after twice being stripped of his judicial duties for defying federal courts on gay marriage and a Ten Commandments display.

The ad says Moore and his wife received $1 million over nine years from the Foundation for Moral Law, a nonprofit legal group that has filed briefs in cases ranging from abortion to religious displays. Tax forms submitted by the group show both at times have served as president of the group and Roy Moore was paid up to a $138,000 annual salary when he was as president of the group.

“Roy Moore wanted more so Roy and his wife took over a million dollars from a charity they ran,” the narrator says after noting that Moore, as chief justice, was one of the highest paid state judges in the country.

Moore campaign chairman Bill Armistead said the ad was “blatantly false and misleading” and said Moore’s work for the group was legitimate as it fought legal battles against liberal legal groups.

“The ad is desperate and heavy with the stench of the Washington establishment,” Armistead said.

A lawyer for the foundation sent a letter to the committee asking it to the pull the ad, saying it wrongly implied Moore took a salary from the group while he was chief justice. Attorney Matthew J. Clark said Moore was not paid by the foundation when he was chief justice and that Kayla Moore was only paid a $65,000 salary as president.

The ad is the latest in a high-dollar campaign on behalf of Strange by the super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republicans led by McConnell have worked aggressively to defeat fringe candidates in GOP Senate primaries ever since a series of messy primaries led to losing general election Senate races in 2010 and 2012.

The group had previously launched attacks against Rep. Mo Brooks, spotlighting the House Freedom Caucus member’s past criticisms of President Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race. Trump remains popular among Republican voters in the deeply conservative state.

Strange was appointed to the position earlier this year by the state’s governor. Other candidates in the crowded primary include state Sen. Trip Pittman and Christian Coalition leader Randy Brinson.

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