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GOP congressman runs TV ads attacking Feinstein

The Associated Press

A Republican congressman from the Central Valley who has been critical of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's water policies has begun running attack ads against her.

The ad campaign is being funded by Rep. Devin Nunes of Visalia, who is trying to make it seem as if Feinstein is against farmers, the timber industry and San Joaquin Valley residents who must pay $12 a year for federal air pollution violations.

The ad is not a precursor to an eventual Nunes challenge to Feinstein, who is up for re-election in 2012. Nunes' chief of staff said Monday that the five-term congressman is using the ads to generate opposition to all Democrats ahead of next year's elections.

"Devin is not going to run for the U.S. Senate," said Johnny Amaral. "We just feel that the senator's record is terrible for this valley, and we are using her record to highlight the problems."

The commercial is critical of Feinstein's bill to restore salmon runs in the San Joaquin River and says it would send "millions of gallons of water to the ocean." A spokesman for Feinstein said the legislation kept the federal courts from deciding the issue.

The Nunes commercial also says Feinstein "won't lift a finger to stop an unfair $29 million valley car tax." The assessment is a federal Environmental Protection Agency penalty for valley ozone violations.

The commercial, which is part of a package of issue ads costing Nunes a little more than $100,000, began airing in the Fresno area last week and will run through Thanksgiving, Amaral said, adding that more TV ads are planned. He said Nunes is using the commercial to build a telephone network of supporters.

Bill Carrick, Feinstein's political strategist, said the commercial misrepresents the senator's positions.

"She doesn't have much patience for people who spend their time playing political games," he said. "This is not the most stable guy in the California delegation."

Central Valley farmers have been frustrated with water policies that seek to protect fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where a variety of issues have affected the health of fisheries in the freshwater estuary. Feinstein angered her own party last year by threatening to amend a jobs bill to ensure that farmers would receive more of their federal water allocation.

Feinstein, elected to the Senate in 1992, has the endorsement of the California Farm Bureau Federation in 2012, but she could be vulnerable in the upcoming election. A recent Field Poll put her approval rating at 41 percent, her lowest ever.

No candidate has yet filed to challenge Feinstein, who lost $5 million in campaign funds this year in a money-laundering case involving Democratic campaign accountant Kinde Durkee. Feinstein backfilled the money lost from her personal fortune.

Carrick said the campaign would have welcomed a challenge from Nunes, whose political donations come mostly from agribusiness.

"If you asked me to design a candidate to run against Sen. Feinstein, I'd like to get someone who is anti-choice, anti-gay rights, who doesn't support immigration reform and who has a zero rating with the League of Conservation Voters," he said. "He's just out of touch with mainstream California."