Campaign Finance

Nebraska Senate race targeted by Democratic super PAC

Rachael Marcus Oct 3, 2012

Republicans appear to be getting closer to picking up the U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska even as liberal super PAC End the Gridlock spends more than $534,000 opposing the GOP candidate, state Sen. Deb Fischer.

Fischer faces former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson in the Republican-leaning state.

End the Gridlock was established in April in Washington, D.C., and has spent entirely in opposition to Fischer.  Nonetheless, End the Gridlock’s website says it plans to focus on “high-impact races” and names only Nebraska as such a race.

Its most recent quarterly filing shows the super PAC took in $229,000 through the end of June. The top donor, Hollywood producer Sidney Kimmel, gave $100,000. Kimmel earned his fortune as founder of the Jones Apparel Group, known for such brands as Jones New York and 9 West. More recent disclosures by the super PAC Majority PAC, whose goal is helping Democrats maintain control of the U.S. Senate, show transfers to End the Gridlock totaling more than $257,000 as well.

The only Nebraska-based donor currently on record is Richard Holland, who helped build one of Omaha’s largest ad agencies. As of the end of June, he contributed $25,000 to the super PAC. 

Fischer’s victory over state Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg in the Republican primary came as a surprise. The Republican establishment spent hundreds of thousands backing Bruning, and conservative super PACs spent more than $1 million backing Stenberg, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Fischer got a late endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and triumphed thanks to 11th-hour support from a super PAC funded by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts.

The New York Times rates the Nebraska seat a “likely, though not surefire” pickup for the GOP, though it increasingly looks more certain. Fischer has a wide lead in the polls, as Kerrey has been criticized for spending the last 10 years in New York, where he served as the president of The New School.

In other outside spending news: 

  • The super PAC National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund reported spending more than $1.3 million supporting one Democratic and three Republican U.S. representatives.
  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reported spending $5.8 million on ads opposing numerous Republican candidates for U.S. House.
  • Conservative super PAC FreedomWorks for America reported spending $1.7 million on online ads designed to help Republican candidates in battleground Senate and House races.
  • SEIU COPE, the political action committee of the Service Employees International Union, released an ad that accuses former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, of “looking out for special interests.”
  • Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC released ads in six U.S. House races at a cost of $1.2 million, according to a press release: “Back” opposes Republican Rep. Bobby Schilling in Illinois’ 17th District; “Recipe” opposes retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally, the Republican candidate in Arizona’s 2nd District; “Door,” co-funded by SEIU COPE, opposes Republican Rep. Daniel Webster in Florida’s 10th District; “These Hands” opposes attorney Ben Lange, the Republican candidate in Iowa’s 1st District; “Out of Step” opposes Republican Rep. Dan Benishek in Michigan’s 1st District; “Postcards,” co-funded by SEIU COPE, opposes Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack in Minnesota’s 8th District. 
  • Conservative super PAC American Crossroads released “Farmer,” which opposes Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and “Actually Happened,” which opposes President Barack Obama. Its sister nonprofit Crossroads GPS released three ads opposing Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate: “Severe,” opposes former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, “Heart,” opposes former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, and “Swipe,” opposing Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
  • Conservative Majority Fund, a political action committee backing widely debunked “birther” claims that Obama may not be an American, reported spending more than $600,000 opposing Obama.
  • Club for Growth Action, a conservative super PAC, launched “Know,” which opposes former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, and “Jobs,” opposing Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who is running for U.S. Senate.
  • The Now or Never PAC, a conservative super PAC, reported spending $405,000 opposing Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House in Illinois’ 8th District.
  • The nonprofit League of Conservation Voters Inc. reported spending nearly $305,000 opposing Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and supporting Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
  • AFSCME PEOPLE, the political action committee of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, released “Against Us” opposing Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in the state.

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