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2.17.20

After 11 Days, Mitch McConnell’s Super PAC *Still* Won’t Deny Being Behind GOP Meddling In Democratic Senate Primary

RALEIGH, NC – It has been 11 days and Mitch McConnell’s super PAC still hasn’t denied connection to “Faith & Power” PAC, a GOP-affiliated secret money group that has invested at least $2.4 million in advertising, in an effort to meddle in the North Carolina Democratic Senate Primary.

Politico reported Monday morning that “a spokesperson for the GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, which also uses Chain Bridge Bank, did not respond to requests for comment.” 

The ties between the secret money group and McConnell-aligned organizations in Washington have been previously reported by the Associated Press and McClatchy: Faith & Power PAC uses the same bank used by the Senate Leadership Fund, Mitch McConnell’s super PAC, as well as a media buying firm known for its work with Republicans.

Recent coverage below: 

Politico: Democrats fear Republican sabotage in key Senate race

  • What seems like a generic campaign ad pitching Erica Smith, a North Carolina state senator, as “the only proven progressive” in the state’s high-profile Senate race is actually part of a multimillion dollar investment from a mysterious super PAC — the innocuously named “Faith and Power PAC” — with apparent ties to Republicans.

  • “It’s so brazen and obvious. … They recognize that Cunningham is a strong candidate, and they’re worried about holding onto that seat,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “When Republicans are weighing in for somebody, they’ve made the judgment that they’re worried about Cal, and they’re not worried about her.”

  • Faith and Power PAC’s ads were placed by a media buyer that is used by a number of conservative organizations, and the PAC uses Chain Bridge Bank, which has deep ties to Republicans. Faith and Power PAC did not respond to emails. A spokesperson for the GOP super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, which also uses Chain Bridge Bank, did not respond to requests for comment.

  • “My gut tells me North Carolinians have a really strong BS meter. And this is triggering it,” Cunningham said in a statement.

  • Democratic leaders said the GOP’s interest in tanking Cunningham is a sign of his strength.

  • Republicans think “Cal Cunningham is the strongest, from what I’ve seen, to take on the Republican incumbent there,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada.

Indy Week: The Good, The Bad & The Awful

  • Cal Cunningham couldn’t buy a story this good. Last week, CNN reported that a political action committee that had formed in January and promptly plopped down $1.9 million on behalf of his main opponent in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, Erica Smith, was actually a GOP-aligned outfit up to no good.

  • The PAC’s ads paint Smith as the race’s true progressive on issues like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and while it’s true that she’s further to the left than Cunningham, the obvious meddling allows him to proclaim, not without justification, that Thom Tillis was terrified of facing him in the fall.

  • Smith is a long shot; she’s polling at 10 percent to Cunningham’s 29 percent and had less than $100,000 in cash at the end of 2019 to Cunningham’s more than $1.7 million. Perhaps the GOP was just trying to cause havoc or force Cunningham to the left ahead of the general election, but the PAC’s ad buy sure made him look like a strong challenger.

Charlotte Observer: Democratic Senate candidates denounce ‘meddling’ by group they say is tied to GOP

  • Two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Tuesday blasted a super PAC that appears linked to the GOP that’s spending $2.4 million on behalf of one of their Democratic primary opponents.

  • “This is an unprecedented meddling in the Democratic primary,” Cal Cunningham told a Charlotte audience. “This is a GOP group . . . coordinating with (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell.

  • “I have a message for Mitch McConnell and Thom Tillis: We are coming for you.”

  • Cunningham told the Observer the ad is designed to raise Smith’s profile and hurt other candidates.

  • “They are trying to disrupt Democrats either by weakening my candidacy or making it harder for Democrats to come together after the primary,” he said. “My gut tells me North Carolinians have a really strong BS meter. And this is triggering it.”

NC Policy Watch: Perfecting corruption: Latest campaign news shows how far and fast our politics have fallen

  • One of the latest and more egregious examples of this newly bold brand of dirty tricks has been on display in North Carolina in recent days. As has been reported by the Charlotte Observer and other outlets, a group that is, by all indications, a conservative dark money funder called Faith and Power PAC has recently spent more than $2.4 million in support of Democratic state Senator Erica Smith in her U.S. Senate primary contest with former state Senator Cal Cunningham and three other contestants.

  • The right-wing money dump appears to be part of an effort to put pressure on or even defeat Cunningham, who has enjoyed the support of the Democratic establishment and who many view as an especially formidable potential opponent for Republican Thom Tillis in November. For her part, Smith has disavowed the ads, but Tillis has been silent and it’s hard to view the scheme as anything other than an example of cynical Trumpian politics at their absolute worst.

  • The bottom line: Contrary to the silly assertions of apologists on the Right about “free speech,” the big money of plutocrats that’s used to buy both politicians and corrupt schemes constitutes a toxic plague on our democracy. The sooner Congress passes new, Supreme Court-proof laws to rein it in, the better.

Associated Press: GOP-linked group spends $2.4M for Democrat Senate candidate

  • A Republican-linked political committee that’s behind a TV ad praising Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Erica Smith is spending at least $2.4 million to push her candidacy in a primary race, a document says.

  • The PAC’s ad buyer has had conservative groups and Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s campaign for clients, and the PAC names a Virginia bank favored by Republican presidential candidate committees in years past to hold its money.

  • Smith’s campaign criticized the PAC’s involvement in the race. Cunningham’s campaign said Monday the PAC’s expenditures show Tillis and Washington Republicans are “panicked by the prospect of facing” Cunningham in the fall.

  • A phone number listed for the PAC didn’t ring Monday. Emails sent to the PAC’s listed address haven’t been returned.