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Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, answers questions from reporters after a vote on the Budget Control Act July 29, 2011 at the Capitol Building. An Arizona lawyer recently formed a small superPAC to oppose Flake in his primary election.
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, answers questions from reporters after a vote on the Budget Control Act July 29, 2011 at the Capitol Building. An Arizona lawyer recently formed a small superPAC to oppose Flake in his primary election. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Molly Redden is an assistant editor at The New Republic.
There are plenty of establishment-sanctioned Super PACs at work in this year's Senate and Congressional races — the Democratic Majority PAC, the Republican Club for Growth Action and American Crossroads. But they're not alone in spending gobs of cash on these elections.
In state-level races across the country, Citizens United has also given rise to a random array of super PACs paid for by the buddies of Congressional primary candidates, say, or by individuals who don't like the ideology of the anointed candidate and happen to have some $500,000 lying around that they can kick in on behalf of a challenger. And depending on the race, they can really pack a punch. (See: Thomas Massie, KY-4).
So from now until November 6, we'll be keeping tabs on the capricious forces bearing down on local races across the country. Look Plankward every Monday (yes, we know today is a Tuesday; we got a late start) for a roundup of the super PACs that have made their first independent expenditures — in layman's terms, spent money for the first time — in the previous week. Some will be inconsequential, but others might become critical players. (And some super PACS start small and grow, so click the name of the PAC for a permanent link to their FEC filings, which are updated whenever they make new expenditures.) Here are this past week's:
Supports Patrick Murphy, D-FL, Congressional candidate
Bill Phillips, a Florida political consultant, formed this super PAC in January with the intention of raising as much as $2 million for three "pro-business, socially progressive candidates." Last week, the group made its first purchase — $54,643 in Internet ads supporting Patrick Murphy, which is quite large by web standards. (In the primaries, some Republican presidential campaigns didn't spend that much on web ads for single states.) Perhaps that's because the firm handling the ads is Visuality, of which Phillips is the managing director.
American Sunrise has not reported any of its donors. Murphy is running to unseat Republican Rep. Allen West, who rode the Tea Party wave to victory two years ago, in an incredibly close race that promises to be one of this cycle's most expensive.
Secure Arizona PAC
Opposes Rep. Jeff Flake, R-AZ, Senate primary candidate
Formed earlier this year by James C. Thomas III, a politically active lawyer from Missouri, Secure Arizona PAC spent a tiny $17,500 last week producing and airing this ad. (While most ad buys blanket the airwaves on several channels, this one will air only a few times a day, on just one channel, for one week). The ad, which makes the flimsy accusation that Flake voted against the conservative-beloved Keystone XL pipeline, is airing just a handful of times.
Flake is currently in a primary race against Wil Cardon, a mostly self-funded opponent who is unlikely to best Flake, but who is not incapable of doing so. It is unclear whether Thomas is the super PAC's only donor, but he is the only one listed so far.
Progress for Washington
Opposes Suzan DelBene, D-WA, Congressional primary candidate
Formed in mid-June by Jeremy Pemble, a Seattle lawyer, Progress for Washington sent out two sets of mailers at a cost of $42,657 last week. They reached more than 50,000 households in a district of about 670,000. Both slammed Suzan DelBene, one of seven candidates running for the Democratic nomination and the Beltway (but not voter) favorite. The Stranger's Slog reports that Pemble is a supporter of and donor to one of DelBene's six general election competitors.
Progress for Washington hasn't disclosed any of its donors yet. (July 20 is the next disclosure filing date for Super PACs).