Campaign Finance

Club for Growth Action eyes Wisconsin

Rachael Marcus Aug 2, 2012

After being the top spender in the GOP U.S. Senate primary and runoff in Texas — in which tea party-favorite Ted Cruz beat establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — super PAC Club for Growth Action shifts its focus to the GOP Senate primary in Wisconsin.

The conservative super PAC released “Change” Wednesday, an ad that criticizes Wisconsin hedge fund manager Eric Hovde and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, both Republicans. Club for Growth Action supports former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann in the Republican primary.

The ad attacks Hovde for supporting the bailout and Thompson for tax hikes. Supporting Neumann, the ad says he is ranked “Wisconsin’s most conservative congressman in decades.”

Club for Growth Action has not reported the cost of the ad to the Federal Election Commission; however, it is already the second-highest outside spender in the Wisconsin race for U.S. Senate, with $748,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The winner of the GOP primary Aug. 14 will face Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the fall, who has the backing of Women Vote!, the Service Employees International Union and Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic candidates for Senate. It appears the groups like Baldwin’s chances against Neumann. On Wednesday, Majority PAC reported spending $492,000, part of which went to ads opposing Hovde and Thompson.

Top donors to Club for Growth Action are private equity CEO John Childs ($1.1 million), libertarian Pay-Pal founder Peter Thiel ($1 million), and New Jersey investor Virginia James ($1 million). Other top donors include Team DeMint, the leadership PAC of tea party leader Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. ($700,000) and Arkansas investor Jackson Stephens Jr. ($700,000), who sits on the board of Club for Growth, the super PAC’s affiliated nonprofit.

The Club for Growth network is headed by Chris Chocola, a former Republican congressman representing Indiana’s 2nd District. According to its website, Club for Growth operates on the principles of limited government, including deregulation, lower taxes and budget reform.

In other outside spending news:

  • Majority PAC released two attack ads: “Again,” criticizing Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Missouri John Brunner’s claims about job creation, and “April 15,” criticizing the Medicare budget votes of Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., who is running for Senate in North Dakota. The ads are part of the $492,000 the super PAC spent on ads, which also included Thompson and Hovde in Wisconsin.
  • The Republican National Committee released “Email Evidence,” an ad that criticizes President Barack Obama’s administration for lack of transparency and off-the-record meetings with lobbyists at a coffee shop near the White House.
  • The nonprofit Crossroads Generation released a new web video, “Blank Check, Please!” which examines the national debt.
  • Nancy Pelosi’s Nightmare,” an ad from conservative super PAC National Horizon, simulates a 1950s-style radio noir show with the actress playing Pelosi muttering “so conservative” in a horrified voice when supposedly thinking about lawyer Vernon Parker, the Republican candidate for U.S. House in Arizona’s 9th District.
  • Character Counts PAC spent $120,000 on ad production and ad placement opposing the U.S. House run of Henry “Trey” Radel III, who is vying with Chauncey Goss and others to replace Rep. Connie Mack in Florida’s 19th District. The super PAC has received only one contribution through the end of June: $100,000 from investor Frank Burr, founder of the hedge fund Discovery Capital Partners. Burr has donated the maximum $5,000 to Goss ahead of the Aug. 14 primary.
  • Liberty for All, a super PAC supporting small government, spent $382,000 on TV ads opposing Wil Cardon, an Arizona Republican candidate for Senate. The August 28 primary will determine whether Cardon or Rep. Jeff Flake will be the Republican candidate vying for retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s seat. The super PAC’s founder and primary backer is Texas student John Ramsey, who inherited his grandfather’s banking fortune, according to the Huffington Post.
  • The Republican Union PAC spent $950,000 on billboards opposing Obama. This is the group’s first independent expenditure, and it has yet to disclose its donors.
  • The super PAC New Directions for America spent $142,000 supporting public relations executive Dan Roberti in his bid to represent Connecticut’s 5th District in the U.S. House. All of the super PAC’s donors have been from outside Connecticut. The super PAC, which is based in New York, has only spent in favor of Roberti.

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