An unusual new super PAC that targets lawmakers from both parties now has a Virginian in its sights: Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D).
The Campaign for Primary Accountability, as the Washington Post detailed earlier this month, goes after incumbents in districts that appear to be safe for their parties. The group, part of a new class of political action committees that can accept unlimited donations, was founded by the son of a Houston construction magnate. It says it is unconcerned with any particular cause or policy issue beyond unseating veteran lawmakers.
The group said earlier this week that it is “watching” roughly three-dozen races but actively “targeting” only six districts – two apiece in Texas and Pennsylvania, one in North Carolina and Moran’s in Virginia.
“Jim Moran is an example of a long-term entrenched incumbent in a safe district, a reliably Democratic district, where our research shows the electorate is not overwhelmingly approving of his record,” said CPA spokesman Curtis Ellis, though he declined to specify what kind of research he was referring to.
Ellis said the group could do campaign mailings against Moran, or buy online or even broadcast advertising, though none of those decisions has been made yet and may depend on how likely it is Moran can be toppled in the primary.
The fact that Moran’s district is safe for Democrats doesn’t matter, because the group’s whole purpose is to mount challenges in primaries, not general elections. But what is unusual about CPA choosing Moran is that he also appears a near-lock to win his primary race on June 12.
Moran’s challenger in the Democratic primary, businessman and Navy veteran Bruce Shuttleworth, is new to politics. He has no real name identification in the Alexandria-based district, and has not yet raised enough money to require that he file papers with the Federal Election Commission.
Moran, by contrast, had $471,000 in the bank and has not faced serious intraparty opposition since 2004, when he beat Alexandria attorney Andrew Rosenberg in the Democratic primary, 59 percent to 41 percent.
Moran spokesman Austin Durrer called the super PAC’s move just “the latest example” of the flawed campaign finance system engendered by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
“Congressman Moran, a champion for the environment, stands ready to fight back against the coming smear campaign by a Super PAC heavily fueled by Texas oil money and right wing conservatives ...” Durrer said. “We call on the CPA to keep their shadowy, conservative, Texas oil money out of Virginia’s Democratic Primaries.”
CPA has received more than $350,000 from donors in the oil and gas industry, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Though Shuttleworth has nothing to do with the CPA, his campaign welcomed the move.
“I’m not surprised thst they’re targeting Jim Moran,” said Shuttleworth spokeswoman Sonia Klein. “Mr. Moran has made some questionable decisions while in Congress. We’re just trying to get the message out about Bruce and we’ll see what happens.”