Anti-incumbent super-PAC returns with sights on new targets for 2014

The anti-incumbent super-PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability is coming back for 2014 after shutting down last election cycle — and it’s already making a wish list of targets, including Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas). 

The organization, which targets long-serving House incumbents in safe districts, spent $3 million to defeat a number of lawmakers in 2012 before running out of money last July.  


A group spokesman tells The Hill the organization’s efforts will be “much more robust” this time around and says plans for new House targets are in the works.

The group has its eye on five incumbents: Rangel, Smith and Reps. Spencer BachusSpencer Thomas BachusManufacturing group leads coalition to urge Congress to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank Biz groups take victory lap on Ex-Im Bank On The Money: White House files notice of China tariff hikes | Dems cite NYT report in push for Trump tax returns | Trump hits Iran with new sanctions | Trump praises GM for selling shuttered Ohio factory | Ex-Im Bank back at full strength MORE (R-Ala.), Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDemocratic lawmakers not initially targeted in Trump DOJ leak probe: report Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight Schiff calls Iranian presidential election 'predetermined' MORE (D-Calif.). 

Rangel, Bachus and Bonner were targets in the last  election cycle and faced tough races; Schiff and Smith are new.

The super-PAC also plans to expand its fundraising focus beyond its core supporters, which include a few Texas billionaires, concentrating on small-dollar donors.

“We certainly plan to match and exceed what we did last time,” group spokesman Curtis Ellis told The Hill. 

“We expect our efforts to be much more robust than last cycle. We’re putting together a donor campaign, fundraising with small donors, which we frankly didn’t do that much last time around,” he said. “And primary challenges are up — we expect to see more primary challenges this cycle than last cycle.”

The super-PAC targets incumbents of both parties its research shows are unpopular in their districts but unlikely to face a tough race because their districts are safely Democratic or Republican. 

The group won’t jump in unless there’s a viable challenger, however. As Ellis put it, “it’s hard to beat something with nothing.” Because of its status as a super-PAC, the Campaign for Primary Accountability can’t be directly involved in recruiting candidates.

The organization played a central role in defeating Reps. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) in 2012, and it contributed to losses by former Reps. Tim Holden (D-Pa.) and Don Manzullo (R-Ill.). 

The group led less successful efforts against former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), who resigned in November, and Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Bachus and Bonner. The group also considered airing ads against Rangel but ended up spending very little on his race.

Ellis said his organization’s research shows Smith’s constituents in Texas are less than thrilled with him, partly because of his failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). 

Smith could face a tough challenge from a libertarian-leaning Republican named Matt McCaul.

“There’s a sense Smith is not universally loved, respected or regarded. He was the author of SOPA, and that worked out really well, didn’t it?” Ellis said. “He was one of the authors, leadership got behind it, the establishment told everyone ‘there’s nothing to see here, just vote for it’ and that blew up in everyone’s face.” 

Ellis added: “We’ve heard through our channels that McCaul is viable and serious, he has the potential to run a real race.”

He said Schiff would be a likely target if he draws a challenge because of his centrist voting record and the fact that he now represents a heavily Democratic district centered in Hollywood.

“Adam is a guy who you could kindly call a center-right, almost Blue Dog-type guy, and as a result of redistricting he’s in one of the brightest blue districts in America. He’s running very hard to get an extreme makeover, House of Representatives edition, to make himself more likable to his constituency. We hope someone steps forward there who’s more truly representative of that district,” Ellis said. 

“We are looking, hoping and praying for a challenger. We can’t recruit candidates ourselves, but that’s one where we’re hoping to see a good challenger stepping forward.”