The controversy over plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero in New York City has landed in Iowa’s 1st District congressional race.

A conservative advocacy group has begun running a television ad criticizing U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, on the issue.

The ad, paid for by the American Future Fund, began airing districtwide on Wednesday. The 30-second spot suggests that the mosque would become a symbol of a Muslim military victory and that Braley “supports” the project.

A Braley spokesman said the ad is wrong.

Braley was asked a question about the matter by Republican activists last week at an appearance at the Iowa State Fair. He said it was a local zoning issue, but that religious diversity is what makes the United States great, according to the Iowa Republican, a conservative website.

“Just as Iowans don’t want people from outside of Iowa telling them how to make zoning decisions, this is a decision that the people of New York are going to have to deal with,” he said, according to the website.

“The ad is factually incorrect,” Jeff Link, an adviser to Braley, said Wednesday. “Bruce Braley never said he supports building a mosque at ground zero.”

Asked the congressman’s position, Link said he stands by his statement last week that it’s a local zoning issue.

After Braley’s comments appeared, his Republican opponent, Ben Lange, said in a news release Tuesday that it was a “disconnect” with regular Iowans to say this is just a local zoning issue.

He said the question is whether the mosque should be built.

Asked Lange’s opinion, his campaign manager, Cody Brown, said Wednesday: “They have a right to build it, and both sides need to make compromises here. There have been legitimate concerns raised.”

The American Future Fund, run by Nick Ryan, former Rep. Jim Nussle’s campaign manager, is a 501(c)(4) that says its mission is to promote free markets and conservative principles. It does not have to disclose who its donors are.

Ryan said the group is spending $50,000 on the ad, which is scheduled to run a week.

The group said last week it plans to invest significant resources in the district during the campaign highlighting Braley’s record on a range of issues.


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