PLANK JULY 16, 2012
It’s time again to look in on the past week’s stranger super PACs—the small PACs you’ve never heard of that will affect congressional and Senate races across the country.
No new super PACs spent their first dime in the last week, but two existing PACs worth highlighting did make independent expenditures. We’ll also revisit two of last week’s PACs to unveil the identities of their mystery donors.
Opposes Jim Pendergraph (R), North Carolina Congressional candidate
The GOP primary in North Carolina’s 9th district is a crowded place—Congressional candidate Robert Pittenger has spent more money personally in pursuit of the nomination than any other 2012 congressional candidate in the nation. Campaign donors in this race include a former governor, the Koch Industries PAC, and a NASCAR team owner—and at one point, the primary, which takes place tomorrow, boasted 11 candidates.
But there’s always room for a little outside spending. And sure enough, a Pittenger-allied super PAC, Citizens for Conservative Leadership, has spent a tiny $25,171 ($12,000 in the past week) on mailers attacking his opponent, former law enforcement officer Jim Pendergraph. As of its last reporting date, the super PAC has raised $45,000 from James M. Kilts, the former CEO of the Gillette Corporation, and from Superior Stone of the Southeast, a Charlotte-based building material supply company, and its president, longtime Pittenger supporter Chris A. Combis.
Opposes John Reeves Raese (R), West Virginia U.S. Senate candidate
Again, we’re fudging a bit—United Mine Workers of America Power PAC has been around since the 2010 election cycle. But as they’ve just made their first ad buy of the 2012 cycle, we’ll let it slide.
The race they’ve singled out is for the primo West Virginia Senate seat held by Democrat Joe Manchin. UMWA’s super PAC has purchased a substantial $77,000-plus in TV and radio ads attacking Manchin’s Republican challenger, John Reeves Raese. UMWA Power PAC hasn’t listed any donors yet, but when they do, they'll almost certainly attribute all donations to the United Mine Workers of America or one of its chapters.
Raese is the multimillionaire owner of Greer Industries, which has holdings in everything from raw materials to radio. Raese lost by about 10 points to Manchin in the 2010 special election to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd, and this will be his fifth attempt to win a statewide seat. Polling data for this year’s race is spotty, but most forecasters see West Virginia as likely or a lock for Democrats.
Ghosts of Super PACs Past
Last week, we featured two super PACs, American Sunrise and Progress for Washington, which had collected the bulk of their money from undisclosed donors. Thanks to a recent FEC filing deadline, we now have a clearer idea of who is behind them—and in both cases, it’s the candidates’ mom or dad.
First let’s take Progress for Washington, which has now spent more than $160,000 in the seven-way race for the Democratic nomination in Washington state’s 1st congressional district. The super PAC has collected every penny of the $115,000 it has reported raising from the mother of candidate Laura Ruderman, according to the OpenSecrets blog. In March, in a letter praising her daughter’s health care record as a state legislator, Ruderman’s mother, Margaret Rothschild, wrote that she was struggling with what is probably terminal cancer.
Of the total spent, $85,000 has gone toward mailers bashing the business record of Ruderman’s opponent, Suzan DelBene, who has far outraised Ruderman and the rest of the field. Tomorrow, $76,000 worth of negative ads paid for by Progress for Washington will begin running on TV. Without knowing too much about Washington’s media markets, I'm still comfortable saying that’s not a small buy.
Then there’s American Sunrise, described by its founder as a progressive, pro-business super PAC. Last week, the PAC had spent $54,643 in Internet ads supporting Democratic congressional candidate Patrick Murphy, who's challenging Republican Tea Partier Allen West. OpenSecrets reports that American Sunrise has now disclosed $350,000 in donations from just two donors: a Florida businessman and Murphy’s father, Thomas P. Murphy, Jr.