Updated: 5:30 p.m.
In the waning days of a bruising primary between Illinois GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Don Manzullo, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor donated $25,000 to an anti-incumbent super PAC for use against Manzullo — a move that may have helped swing the contest in favor of Kinzinger.
The Virginia Republican had previously endorsed Kinzinger and donated directly to his campaign, which was unusual in and of itself and which drew the ire of Manzullo and some older members of the GOP Conference.
Cantor has previously defended his backing of Kinzinger, arguing that he had promised to support him before the freshman decided to run in the same district as Manzullo. Cantor’s overt backing of Kinzinger did not directly target Manzullo, but YG Action Fund, a super PAC run by a former Cantor aide, spent $52,000 on a radio ad buy supporting Kinzinger.
But Cantor’s decision to donate significant resources to the Campaign for Primary Accountability, which targets House Republican and Democratic incumbents across the country and ran ads harshly critical of Manzullo, is sure to reignite the controversy.
Cantor campaign spokesman Ray Allen told Roll Call that Cantor made the donation at the request of Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) for use only in the Kinzinger-Manzullo race.
“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,” Allen said.
Allen also made it clear that Cantor’s involvement in the Illinois primary was a one-time decision and that he does not support the CPA’s effort to oust incumbent Members.
“Leader Cantor does not support the actions of this organization in any other election,” Allen said.
In an interview, Schock explained that with polls showing Kinzinger and Manzullo locked in a tight race, he decided to approach the CPA about helping expand an ongoing advertising campaign that they were running against Manzullo.
“The final week of the campaign, it got very tight, it was neck and neck. I was trying to do everything I could to help the Kinzinger campaign and reached out to the committee that was running ads in support of them,” Schock said.
“They were basically running the television ads for him, [and] I asked if I could specify a donation to them” to be used only the Illinois primary.
“And they said I could,” Schock said, adding that he discussed the legality of the arrangement with the National Republican Congressional Committee.