By now we’re getting used to so-called Super PACs - the cheerily-named independent entities that often funnel millions for (or against) a particular candidate. However, there’s also a new one that bucks this trend — and comes across almost as a combination of the Tea Party and Anonymous.
The group is called the Campaign For Primary Accountability, and it has one purpose: to take down incumbents, regardless of party. Its latest FEC filing shows it has raised over $1.8 million. The founders and main financial backers are Texas construction businessman and Republican donor Leo Linbeck, and Wisconsin-based conservative activist Eric O’Keefe. But their new mission aims to go beyond conventional conservative politics.
“They’ve found a way to change Washington without changing any laws, and that’s by boosting turnout in the primary elections,” said the group’s press secretary Curtis Ellis, in an interview with TPM.
So can they make an impact?
Ellis’s own political record is mixed. He served as press secretary for former Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI), and also worked on the 2004, 2006 and 2011 Congressional campaigns of upstate New York businessman Jack Davis, who ran as a Democrat before becoming an independent Tea Party candidate last year. (Davis also ran in the 2008 Democratic primary, when Ellis was working for Kagen.)
“I’ve got my own ‘9-9-9’ plan,” Ellis added, explaining that nine out of ten Congressmen get re-elected, nine out of ten districts are safely Republican or Democratic — and nine out of ten people don’t vote in primaries. “I see a pattern right there. So if we can boost turnout in the primary elections, we can change the names that are on the ballots.”
One incumbent the group was targeting was Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), who was facing another round of stiff primary challenges for the third cycle in a row. The group releasing a poll that showed Burton trailing by a single point in a one-on-one primary race against former Rep. David McInTosh (but also benefiting from a divided field, as occurred previously in the 2010 primary). Burton announced last week that he is now retiring.
The group’s current batch of targeted incumbents, for primaries in or around the First Quarter, are Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). In a slight change to their usual modus operandi, they will support Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) who is facing a member-vs.-member primary with fellow Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, which has resulted from redistricting.
“This is an interesting story in that we are not pushing an ideological agenda; it’s about governance,” said Ellis. “There’s a tendency to pigeonhole things — ‘it’s a conservative group, it’s a liberal group.’ We’re backing Dennis Kucinich, and people who think Jean Schmidt isn’t conservative enough.”
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