The Campaign for Primary Accountability, a super PAC, plans to file paperwork this month with the Federal Election Commission clarifying that Cantor’s donation from his own political action committee was intended only to support Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a freshman who ousted Rep. Don Manzullo in a primary that resulted from the decennial redistricting process.
The group, founded for the sole purpose of defeating entrenched incumbents from either party, was not asked by Cantor to classify the money in this manner but did so because that was how he wanted it spent. The money — along with a donation from a PAC supporting Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) — already had been spent on a final flurry of campaign ads that the super PAC bought to fight Manzullo, a 10-term congressman.
“We’re going to report it that way, because that was the intent,” Leo Linbeck III, the founder and primary source of funding for the Campaign for Primary Accountability, said Tuesday in an interview. “The money that Cantor put in got spent on that race.”
This is the latest development in an odd story that began March 16, the Friday before Illinois’s March 20 primary, when the Houston-based organization received a $25,000 wire transfer from a group it had never heard of: the Every Republican Is Crucial PAC. Or, in Beltway-speak, EricPAC, for Cantor.
Linbeck and his advisers had just talked to some wealthy donors in Illinois who vowed to pull together $100,000 for a final “surge” of negative ads against Manzullo. So, he said, he assumed the donation was from an Illinois group. “We kind of figured it was associated with this play, but we didn’t know who was behind it,” he said, explaining that no one from Cantor’s operation ever contacted his group and that he had never met the majority leader.
“He couldn’t pick me out in a room of two,” Linbeck joked. If Cantor or a political associate had called to inform him that the money was intended to help Kinzinger, the group would have told him that it was already on its way to the newly drawn district in Chicago’s exurbs.
Until a reporter from Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, contacted his staff Friday, Linbeck had no clue that Cantor played any role in his group’s effort to oust Manzullo. He blamed Cantor’s staff for handling the situation in a clumsy manner.
Linbeck’s latest comments provide some political cover for Cantor, who has said he made a onetime donation not meant to go toward other races in which GOP incumbents were targeted.
In a statement, Ray Allen, Cantor’s top political adviser, said: “On Thursday, March 15, 2012, Leader Cantor was asked by Congressman Schock to contribute to an organization that was supporting Adam Kinzinger in the Illinois election of March 20. EricPAC subsequently made a contribution with the understanding that those funds would be used only in the effort to support Congressman Kinzinger. Leader Cantor does not support the actions of this organization in any other election.”