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Pence advocacy group launches $10 million ad campaign hitting Biden on Ukraine and energy

COLUMBIA, SC - APRIL 29: Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks to a crowd during an event sponsored by the Palmetto Family organization on April 29, 2021 in Columbia, South Carolina. The address was his first since the end of his vice presidency. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

 (CNN) — Mike Pence‘s advocacy group has launched a $10 million ad campaign hitting the Biden administration on US energy policy and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The large ad buy is the first by Pence’s Indianapolis-based Advancing American Freedom and targets 16 vulnerable House Democrats in 11 states.

The 30-second spot opens with video of Russian military attacks on Ukraine before a voiceover criticizes President Joe Biden for revoking a permit last year to halt the building of a major oil pipeline, blaming that decision for increasing America’s reliance on Russian oil. The ad says the decision is “endangering America’s security and helping Russia fund their invasion.”

A person close to Advancing American Freedom said the ads were made by veteran GOP firm BrabenderCox and that the campaign could expand to focus on additional Democratic House members.

Axios first reported on the new ad campaign.

Pence does not appear in the ad, but the purchase is a significant foray into the 2022 midterm campaign for the former Republican vice president. The focus on Russia’s invasion also follows on Pence’s recent efforts to distinguish himself on the issue as he prepares for a possible White House run in 2024, particularly from his onetime running mate, former President Donald Trump.

While addressing donors to the Republican National Committee on Friday, Pence condemned Republican “apologists” who have used positive language to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom,” Pence said at a retreat in New Orleans. The line received applause from donors who were gathered for a Republican National Committee retreat in New Orleans.

Pence also urged the Biden administration to increase sanctions on Russia.

The speech was something of a rebuttal to Trump, who has praised Putin in recent days as “smart” and called his invasion of Ukraine “genius.”

In addition to forging a different path from Trump on Ukraine, Pence has begun speaking out more directly against Trump, particularly around the issues involving the 2020 election and what led to the riot on January 6, 2021.

In a speech in Florida last month for conservative lawyers, he said Trump was “wrong” to suggest Pence could have done anything to change or delay the counting of electoral votes. He condemned the idea as “un-American” and warned Trump’s position could be problematic for Republicans in the next presidential contest.

“Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election, and (Vice President) Kamala Harris will have no right to overturn the election when we beat them in 2024,” Pence said.

Beyond drawing these contrasts with Trump, Pence has been building up an independent brand as a loyal team player for the Republican Party. For the last year, he has raised money for Republican candidates across the country, with a particular focus on helping the GOP win the majority in the House and more governor’s seats in the upcoming midterm elections.