The Campaign for Primary Accountability, a super PAC that bills itself as nonpartisan and was instrumental in ousting incumbent Republican Reps. Jean Schmidt (Ohio) and Don Manzullo (Ill.), has raised nearly all of its $2.5 million from donors who have supported Republican candidates and the GOP party committees the group claims to be working against.
The political action committee’s recent decision to hire Mark Meckler, a high-profile tea party activist, raises further questions about its independence. Officials at the Tea Party Express, a California-based PAC, and FreedomWorks, a conservative grass-roots group that has claimed the tea party mantle, have questioned what’s driving the CPA’s agenda.
The super PAC, launched last November, has spent more than $1.5 million in 14 primaries so far this year, quickly building a reputation as an anti-establishment powerhouse.
It is driven financially and strategically by conservative operatives and has had little luck pulling Democrats and liberals into its fold, according to a Roll Call analysis of the PAC’s 48 largest donors, who gave $250 or more through the end of March.
Meckler, a former work-from-home Internet lawyer, earned $150,000 a year as the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. He developed a reputation as a prolific fundraiser, helping the group secure its first $1 million donation, which opened the floodgates for $12.2 million in small contributions from May 2010 to May 2011.
In February, Meckler left Tea Party Patriots to join the CPA as an adviser on grass-roots strategy and to lead an affiliated nonprofit, Citizens for Self Governance. The alliance could help the CPA tap into small-dollar tea party donors.
“I call it the citizen super PAC,” Meckler said in an interview.
To date, the PAC has relied on donors who have given tens of thousands of dollars to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee, all of which help bankroll incumbents trying to defend their seats.
Dean White, an Indiana billionaire who gave $25,000 to the CPA, also cut $30,000 checks each to the RNC and NRCC this cycle, according to federal records. White declined to comment for this story.
The CPA’s donors include supporters of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Dick Lugar (Ind.), whose primary loss last week has become emblematic of anti-incumbent fervor.
Nearly all of the CPA’s donors have given money to Republican candidates or party committees at some point since the 2008 cycle, records show.