King of Pork, meet the Prince of PACs (and super PACs)



Mississippi’s six-term U.S. Senator, Thad Cochran, built his reputation for bringing home federal bacon through Congressional earmarks. His Republican primary election opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, seems likely to have earned his own nickname by the time Mississippians decide on June 3 which GOP candidate to advance to the general election.

McDaniel, 41, has attracted lots of political action committees



with unlimited spending restrictions supporting his bid for statewide federal office. These PACs without spending limits by law just can’t coordinate with McDaniel or his campaign. To date, the majority of PACs supporting Tea Party favorite McDaniel are super PACs, which can receive unlimited contributions from individuals, associations, union and corporations.

My piece on independent expenditures so far in this U.S. Senate

primary published Sunday showed early outside influence brewing on both sides. Many more PACs and super PACs will likely join the fray before the election.

However, McDaniel continues gain deep-pock PAC allies, which can offer get-out-the-vote support, campaign materials like signs and commercials, logistics and so much more. His newest supporter, Freedomworks for America, reported $41,355 in expenses Sunday to either support McDaniel or oppose Cochran. This covered yard signs for McDaniel and against Cochran, a luncheon, estimated staff and overhead and travel.

Former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas founded Freedomworks for America to advocate on fiscal issues and less government intervention in economic activities, largely supporting Tea Party candidates.

Freedomworks for America’s support for McDaniel amounted to 46 percent of all the super PAC’s reported spending Sunday in three Congressional primary races in Mississippi, Idaho and Kentucky. This super PAC, like so many others, provided a force nationwide during the 2012 election cycle, spending $22.6 million. In 2014’s election cycle, Freedomworks has spent nearly $2 million and will likely spend exponentially more to elect candidates like McDaniel.

So far, PACs and super PACs making independent expenditures in this race on McDaniel’s behalf have totaled $716,424. The single super PAC supporting Cochran, Mississippi Conservatives, has spent $221,740, the group’s most recent expense was $2,000 for advertising on the popular state blog Jackson Jambalaya.

Other PACs and super PACs supporting McDaniel are Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth Action, Senate Conservatives Action and Madison Project Inc.
Along with independent expenditures, these PACs also “earmark” contributions directly to McDaniel’s campaign by having their supporters, more than 1 million throughout the nation, from each group’s website.

With Cochran and McDaniel both accepting PAC money directly to their political campaigns and receiving support from super PACs, neither candidate can legitimately denounce outside money expected to overwhelm this race.

Both campaigns provided statements related to outside money in the race, specifically independent expenditures of PACs and super PaCs.

McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch:

“Sen. McDaniel is proud of all the support he has received from conservatives across Mississippi and across the country. These conservatives are supporting Sen. McDanial because he has a record of standing up for limited government and fiscal responsibility. They are tired of career politicians that vote for tax increases, debt ceiling increases, outrageous pork projects like the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska, and the funding of Obamacare.”

Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell:

“We are not allowed to coordinate with outside groups so we have no control over what they do. We are very pleased to have the endorsement of Governor Phil Bryant along with virtually every other conservative elected official in this state. Governor Bryant and other conservative Republican elected officials who have also endorsed Thad know it’s critical we have Thad’s experienced leadership in the U.S. Senate so Mississippi’s voice is as strong as possible.

Out-of-state groups have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to influence this election just like they have done in other states so we expect these outsiders will try to mislead and deceive voters. Mississippians are not going to be fooled because people here know Thad’s record of conservative leadership and how he’s done so much to help build our state. We are pleased to have strong support from Mississippians all across the state and we are not relying on out-of-state groups to deliver our message.”

But how effective will all this outside spending be as Mississippians decide between these very different candidates? Ask me about 9 p.m. on June 3.

As always, I welcome comments below.