The organization is one of a new class of super PACs able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money that aims to alter the balance of congressional races, much as similar groups have done in the Republican presidential race. There are Democratic super PACs devoted to holding the party’s majority in the Senate and retaking the House and Republican ones with designs on just the opposite.
But no super PAC has sought to tap into the public outrage toward Congress quite the way that the Campaign for Primary Accountability has.
“We’re trying to make the electoral system competitive, so that Congress will become more accountable to the voters,” Leo Linbeck III, the founder of the new super PAC, said in an e-mail interview. “It’s not about policy, it’s about governance. We’re not interested in shifting power between Republicans and Democrats. We’re interested in shifting power between Congress and the people.”
The group was one for two on Tuesday night. Republican Brad Wenstrup — a veteran of the Iraq war who had never held office — scored a surprise victory over Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) with the group’s help. But Kucinich lost in a redrawn northern Ohio district to Rep. Marcy Kaptur, another Democratic incumbent.
Group leaders said they will target numerous incumbents — and they appear to have the power to do it. At the end of January, the super PAC had collected nearly $1.9 million, according to reports with the Federal Election Commission, and $1.6 million of that came from just four mega-donors who wrote six-figure checks. Linbeck, who works for his father’s company and has others of his own, has given at least $775,000.
While those amounts pale in comparison to the tens of millions flowing into presidential super PACs, House primaries are small-scale affairs and a modest ad campaign can be pivotal, especially one that comes just before Election Day.
“We’re there to equalize, to make these races competitive,” Curtis Ellis, spokesman for the Campaign for Primary Accountability, said Wednesday in an interview.
The next target for the new super PAC is Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), chairman of the Financial Services Committee, who is under an ethics investigation for stock trades he made during the 2008 financial crisis.
Linbeck’s super PAC has already spent $53,000 on TV ads and phone calls to Republican voters in Bachus’s Birmingham-based district — and more is on the way before Tuesday’s primary, in which a little-known state legislator is challenging the 10-term Republican. One ad calls Bachus “a debt-raising, status-quo politician” who is now under investigation.