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Business Bid to Counter Tea Party Fizzles

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
LaTourette’s Defending Main Street super PAC raised $845,000 last year, more than half of it from labor unions.

Republicans for Immigration Reform, a super PAC launched by some of the same organizers who ran the top Mitt Romney super PAC in 2012, has raised just $307,545. The group takes credit for helping spur recent GOP immigration action, but has done little advertising. Two super PACs with ties to House GOP leaders, the Congressional Leadership Fund and the YG Action Fund, have raised $1.3 million between them. A super PAC and policy website launched by GOP consultant and commentator Alex Castellanos, NewRepublican.org, has raised less than $60,000.

Even at the deep-pocketed GOP super PAC American Crossroads, founded by Republican operative Karl Rove, receipts totaled only $3.6 million last year — five times less than the $18.4 million the group had collected at this point in the 2012 cycle. The super PAC and its tax-exempt arm, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, along with a new spinoff super PAC dubbed the Conservative Victory Project, collectively raised $6.1 million in 2013, Politico reported.

Still, that’s a far cry from the $300 million that the Crossroads operation shelled out in 2012. And the Conservative Victory Project, which drew both buzz and controversy when Rove pledged after the 2012 elections that the new super PAC would jump into Senate primaries, has essentially gone dormant, with $178 in cash on hand.

Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in a statement that this year’s Senate races present “great opportunities” for Republicans, that pledges “are on track with previous cycles,” and that the group is “increasingly enthusiastic” about the prospects of winning the Senate and holding the House.

Some big American Crossroads donors have flocked to Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a super PAC set up to back Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who faces both a primary challenge from conservative Matt Bevin and a strong Democratic opponent in Alison Lundergan Grimes. It raised $2.4 million last year, ranking it among the top GOP-friendly super PACs in this election.

Other GOP super PACs focused on individual races include the West Main Street Values PAC, which has raised $130,000 to defend Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., from primary challenges on the right, and Mississippi Conservatives, a super PAC that launched this year and has already spent $219,500 opposing Chris McDaniel, a conservative state senator challenging Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Most importantly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which doled out $35.6 million in the 2012 elections, has spent close to $1 million on the midterms. That includes $200,000 to defend McConnell and $140,000 to support Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who also faces a conservative primary challenger. The chamber will reportedly spend up to $50 million in the midterms; a chamber spokeswoman declined to discuss spending or strategy.

Some business leaders say they are shifting their focus from high-dollar ads to more effective local and grass-roots organizing. When Liz Cheney abandoned her bid to unseat Sen. Michael B. Enzi, the National Retail Federation took some credit for having mobilized Wyoming business leaders behind Enzi.

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