The Senate Leadership Fund released the following statement after FEC pre-primary filings revealed SLF funded Faith and Power PAC:
“We stole a page out of Chuck Schumer’s playbook, and it’s been more successful than we could have imagined. Democrats are burning cash in a $13 million rescue mission for Cal Cunningham, who has proven to be a lackluster candidate with less money in the bank today than the beginning of the year.
“If you add in the fact that Cunningham felt pressured to say he would support Bernie Sanders, I’d call this an unqualified success. We got a lot more for our money than when Democrats spent millions in Thom Tillis’ primary six years ago.” -SLF President Steven Law
Cal Cunningham’s campaign pre-primary report shows he is spending more cash than he is taking in, leaving his cash on hand dangerously low. Thom Tillis, on the other hand, has been able to increase his cash on hand and sharpen his knives for whoever emerges from the Democratic primary.
Democrats have already spent over $10.6 million on television and radio alone to drag Cunningham forward, while we anticipate total spending could approach $15 million or more. This puts Democrats on pace to have to far surpass 2014, previously the most expensive Senate race in North Carolina history, where pro-Hagan outside groups spent $29 million *for the entire cycle.*
Additionally, Cunningham has been forced to tack left on a host of issues, including announcing his support for impeachment after dodging the question for months, and admitting he would support Bernie Sanders for President.
Finally, Senate Democrats pioneered the tactic of meddling in Republican primaries – including in Thom Tillis’ first race in 2014:
In 2014, Kay Hagan’s campaign paid for radio ads and fliers sent to Republican voters claiming Thom Tillis praised Obamacare. “The fliers landed in the mailboxes of Republican voters here last week with a warning likely to unnerve many conservatives. Thom Tillis, the Republican front-runner for a U.S. Senate seat, once called President Obama’s health-care law ‘a great idea,’ the mailer said. The assertion echoed recent radio ads that also seem to question Tillis’s adherence to the orthodoxy of a party that has made its opposition to the Affordable Care Act a centerpiece of its midterm-election strategy. But the warnings didn’t come from any of the seven opponents Tillis will face in Tuesday’s GOP primary, where he has been regularly attacked as not conservative enough. Instead, they were paid for by Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat who will face the eventual GOP nominee in November.” (Rosalind S. Helderman, “Vulnerable Democratic Sen. Hagan runs anti-Obamacare ad against GOP challenger,” The Washington Post, 5/5/14)
Democrats’ Senate Super PAC also spent $2.4 million attacking Thom Tillis on television during the primary. “Tillis was by far the most viable candidate in a general, so Democrats invested big to try and bring him down and force him into a runoff. Senate Majority PAC spent $2.4 million blasting Tillis — including a spate of negative ads over ethics in the closing weeks — and $1.4 million boosting Hagan through the primary.” (James Hohmann, “Tuesday’s takeaways,” Politico, 5/6/14)
Senate Democrats have a long history of meddling in other Republican primaries, a tactic pioneered by former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, and famously used by Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill:
A 2014 Atlantic article about Democrats’ primary meddling credited former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid as the “pioneer” of the tactic during his 2010 re-election. “The tactic’s pioneer was Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, whose 2010 campaign brain trust thought he stood a better chance against Sharron Angle, a far-right Tea Partier with a checkered history, than against Sue Lowden, the early frontrunner backed by the state GOP establishment. The idea of Reid meddling in the Republican primary was nonetheless a sensitive enough idea that he sought to distance himself from it; it was a nominally independent political-action committee called Patriot Majority that began attacking Lowden for her ‘chickens for checkups’ gaffe, in which she proposed that people barter poultry for health care, like in the old days.” (Molly Ball, “Can Democrats Keep Messing with Republican Primary Voters?” The Atlantic, 5/6/14)
Democratic Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill wrote a chapter in her book about how she “successfully manipulated the Republican primary so that in the general election I would face the candidate I was most likely to beat.” “It was August 7, 2012, and I was standing in my hotel room in Kansas City about to shotgun a beer for the first time in my life. I had just made the biggest gamble of my political career—a $1.7 million gamble—and it had paid off. Running for reelection to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from Missouri, I had successfully manipulated the Republican primary so that in the general election I would face the candidate I was most likely to beat. And this is how I had promised my daughters we would celebrate.” (Sen. Claire McCaskill, Op-Ed, “How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later,” Politico, 8/11/15)
- POLITICO: “How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later”(Sen. Claire McCaskill, Op-Ed, “How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later,” Politico, 8/11/15)
- McCaskill even back-channeled the Akin campaign to assist them with ad strategy.“On the Thursday before the election, I called Ron Gladney, the husband of Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Republican from Missouri. I asked him if he could get a message to the Akin camp to put the Huckabee ad back up. Of course Gladney started laughing and asked, “Are you kidding?” “No,” I replied. “If he gets the Huckabee ad back up by Friday, he’s going to win.” I also placed a call to Michael Kelley, a Democratic Party and labor operative who was friends with a former Akin staffer, and asked him to convey the same message to the Akin camp. A short time later my campaign manager, Adrianne Marsh, got a call from the Akin campaign. The person on the line wanted to talk to our pollster. Adrianne called me, and I gave clearance, allowing Kiley to speak in broad generalities. Three hours later the Huckabee ad was back up.” (Sen. Claire McCaskill, Op-Ed, “How I Helped Todd Akin Win — So I Could Beat Him Later,” Politico, 8/11/15)
In 2018, Democrats publicly considered a nationwide effort to meddle in Republican Senate primaries. “Democrats are looking to revive a little Todd Akin magic in 2018. With Republican Senate primaries from West Virginia to Montana promising to pit Trump-inspired insurgents against more mainstream candidates, Democrats are considering ways to step in and wreak some havoc. The idea: Elevate the GOP’s most extreme option in each race, easing Democrats’ path to victory in a range of states tilted against them. … Possibilities abound to revive the strategy next year, Democrats say. They’re exploring states, including Arizona, where Kelli Ward, a challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake, said Sen. John McCain should vacate his seat “as quickly as possible” after his brain cancer diagnosis. They’re looking at Nevada, where frequent candidate Danny Tarkanian — who once mused about ‘pretend[ing] we’re black,’ referring to his African-American opponent — is running against Sen. Dean Heller.” (Gabriel Debenedetti, “Democrats look to wreak havoc in GOP primaries,” Politico, 10/6/17)
In 2018, a Democratic Super PAC formed in Arizona to attack Martha McSally before the primary as a way to boost her primary challenger. “A Democrat-aligned group whose financiers are unknown is barraging the airwaves with TV ads to try to influence the Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race in hopes of creating what it deems a more favorable match-up in the general election. Traditionally, the political parties and their allies send messages to their voters and do not try to play in the opposing party’s primary election. In this year’s Arizona’s race, Red and Gold has spent nearly $1.7 million attacking the presumed GOP front-runner, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, since it formed Aug. 1.” (Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, “Why a Democratic group is ‘meddling’ in Arizona’s GOP Senate primary,” The Republic, 8/19/18)
In 2018, a Democratic Super PAC meddled in the Republican primary in West Virginia with ads attacking Evan Jenkins and Patrick Morrisey. “Beyond Blankenship and the establishment GOP’s battle to deny him the nomination, another fight is happening: Democrats appear to be meddling to defeat Rep. Evan Jenkins, a Democratic state legislator turned Republican congressman, in the three-way primary. The Duty and Country PAC, which is run by the Democratic former U.S. attorney responsible for jailing Blankenship, has spent $1.8 million attacking Jenkins and just $47,000 attacking Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the third GOP primary contender. Their ads attacking Jenkins have aired more than 1,500 times, according to a Republican tracking media buys. Their spots attacking Morrisey have aired just six times. The group has spent more on television ads than anyone involved in the race, except for Blankenship’s campaign.” (Kevin Robillard, “Democratic Meddling In West Virginia And 4 Other Things To Watch This Election Day,” The Huffington Post, 5/8/18)
In 2014, a Democratic Super PAC spent nearly $4 million attacking Dan Sullivan before the primary, and attempt to lift Sullivan’s primary opponents. “Democrats and their allies are fighting in a potentially make-or-break primary Tuesday in Alaska — a Republican primary. An outside group backing Democratic Sen. Mark Begich has spent nearly $4 million in attack ads against GOP Senate front-runner Dan Sullivan, a move Republicans say is “meddling” by Democrats to set themselves up for an easier general election this fall.” (Elizabeth Titus, “Alaska primary tests Dem ‘meddling,’” Politico, 8/19/14)