House GOP Super PAC Has Big Lead Over Democrats’ Counterpart

By Kenneth P. Doyle

A super political action committee linked to House Republican leaders has raised nearly seven times more money so far this year than its Democratic counterpart, suggesting Republicans may have a big advantage in super PAC campaign spending headed into the 2018 midterm elections.

The Republican House super PAC, called the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), has been endorsed by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP leaders. The super PAC has raised a total of more than $11.7 million through June 14, according its most recent disclosure report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The House Majority PAC, the super PAC linked to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders, has raised just over $1.8 million through May 31, according to its most recent FEC report.

CLF spent more than $7 million in a recent, closely watched congressional special election in Georgia and claimed much of the credit for Republican Karen Handel’s win in the race. Following the election for that U.S. House seat from suburban Atlanta, CLF has indicated it is ready to spend as much as $100 million on the 2018 midterms.

More Spending Promised

“During the 2018 cycle, CLF will spend millions of dollars highlighting Nancy Pelosi’s toxic agenda and reminding voters across the country that Democratic candidates are nothing more than rubber stamps for her out-of-touch, liberal policies,” the super PAC’s executive director, Corry Bliss, said in a June 27 memo posted on the CLF website.

Handel’s opponent in the Georgia race, Democrat Jon Ossoff, capitalized on Democratic contributors’ resistance to President Donald Trump, raising $23.6 million for his campaign committee through the end of May, according to FEC reports. That was more than five times the amount raised by Handel’s campaign, but the money in the race was equalized by outside groups, led by CLF, which spent far more overall to help the Republican side.

The Democrats’ super PAC, House Majority PAC, along with a companion nonprofit group, Patriot Majority, spent about $700,000 in the Georgia race to help Ossoff—about 10 percent of what the House Republican super PAC spent in the race.

“House Majority PAC is committed to ensuring that Jon Ossoff has the support necessary to win the June runoff in GA-06,” said a May statement by Charlie Kelly, executive director of House Majority PAC, announcing the super PAC’s spending plans in the Georgia race.

Relying on Big Democratic Donors

House Majority PAC has relied on wealthy Democratic donors, such as George Marcus, Donald Sussman, and Tom Steyer, for most of its funding this year. Marcus has given $500,000 so far in the 2018 election cycle, while Sussman gave $250,000. The Steyer-funded NextGen Climate Action super PAC gave the Democratic super PAC $200,000. The super PAC also got $100,000 from the PAC of a union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The only business association that gave to the Democratic super PAC , according to the latest FEC report, was the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents video game makers. The association gave the House Majority PAC $50,000.

In contrast, the Republicans’ CLF has relied heavily on contributions from corporations and business associations, as well as its nonprofit arm, the American Action Network (AAN). AAN doesn’t report its donors but is known to have received corporate money in the past.

In the first two weeks of June, the Republican super PAC received $600,000 from AAN, on top of the $6 million received from the nonprofit earlier in the year. CLF also recieved $450,000 in June from two oil companies—Valero Services Inc. gave $250,000, while Occidental Petroleum Corp. gave $200,000.

In addition to the Georgia special election, the House Republicans’ super PAC was a factor in two of the three other House races held this year to fill Republican-held seats vacated by lawmakers who left Congress to join the Trump administration. The special elections were in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina; CLF spent money on ads and other efforts in Kansas and Montana.

Encouraged by Trump’s low poll numbers and Democratic donors providing millions of dollars in small campaign contributions through online platforms like the PAC ActBlue, Democrats thought they could turn at least one of these House seats from red to blue. In the end, Republicans won all four races.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at kdoyle@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at pHendrie@bna.com

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