Establishment Republicans hide their fingerprints with carefully planned primary spending

Deep-pocketed Republican groups are pouring millions into efforts to weed out right-wing GOP primary candidates — while ensuring the source of the money remains hidden until voters have chosen their nominees, learned Axios.

Why is this important: Through “pop-up” super PACs, often branded with local-sounding or vaguely ideological names, Republican operatives in Washington can try to tip the scales of major intra-party fights without leaving a fingerprint.

Driving the news: The latest battleground is New Hampshire, where big-dollar super PACs are running millions of ads to spur more mainstream Republican candidates and attack right-wing rivals ahead of Tuesday’s primaries.

  • White Mountain PAC was formed late last month and has already spent nearly $5 million backing Republican Sen. Chuck Morse and hitting his hardline top challenger in the US Senate, Don Bolduc.

The plot: The New York Times reported this month that White Mountain is “tied” to the political operation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

  • There is no information in the public domain proving these links. And that appears to be on purpose — its foray into New Hampshire was timed so voters wouldn’t know who is funding the group until its next financial filing in October.
  • McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund previously funded a super PAC that attacked Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens in Missouri. He timed these expenses to prevent donor disclosure until after the primary, which Greitens lost.

Between the lines: Support from “establishment” figures in Washington can be a political liability in primary contests in which grassroots pro-Trump GOP voters often turn out in droves.

  • By carefully timing an independent spending campaign, agents can deposit millions in a hot race before voters have a clue where the money is coming from.

Zoom out: The tactic has unfolded in races across the country this year, generally in favor of more moderate Republican candidates and at the expense of far-right primary rivals.

  • Also in New Hampshire, a group called American Liberty Action PAC spent about $730,000 to boost Keene Mayor George Hansel’s Republican bid against his pro-Trump opponent Bob Burns.
  • The group, which has yet to reveal donors, has also poured huge sums into attacking far-right Republican House candidates Anthony Sabatini in Florida and Carl Paladino in New York, both of whom lost their bids. major last month.
  • Another group, the Eighteen Fifty Four Fund, gave millions to pop-up super PACs aimed at weeding out far-right midterm candidates, again timing those donations to be disclosed only after the competitions in question.

  • In Wyoming, National Republicans worked unsuccessfully to fend off a Trump-backed challenge to Rep. Liz Cheney in a way that obscured their involvement.

What they say : Those kinds of tactics can help keep the focus on the candidates and off the groups themselves, veteran Republican strategist Doug Heye explained.

  • You’re trying to help a particular candidate, and so whatever you can do to do that, within legal limits, that’s what you’ll do,” Heye told Axios. “If you deny your opponent the ability to attack, you’ve done something smart.”

The other side: Democrats have used similar tactics to cloud their own involvement in GOP primary races this year.

  • The super pop-up PAC Democratic Colorado has worked to bolster far-right Senate candidate Ron Hanks against the more moderate Joe O’Dea.
  • It wasn’t until after O’Dea’s victory that FEC documents revealed the group was funded entirely by Senate Majority PAC, a high-budget group affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Chuck. Schumer.

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