After the GOP-legislature gerrymandered the North Carolina map to make Rep. Brad Miller’s (D) 13th Congressional District solidly Republican territory, he decided not to seek re-election. The open seat has drawn several Republican candidates including former U.S. Attorney George Holding and Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Paul Coble. Coble, a former mayor of Raleigh, is the nephew of the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) and his campaign YouTube account features a video of the late Senator’s widow telling voters that if they want somebody like her late husband in Congress, they should vote for Coble — who is “just like Jesse.”
While the race is between two far-right, anti-gay extremist candidates, their primary fight has already become quite nasty. Coble’s campaign has launched a “George Holding Exposed” website and Holding’s has created a “Paul Coble Exposed” site. Each accused the other of being secretly not as reactionary as he claims to be.
What makes this race noteworthy is that it is one of the first House races to feature an active Super PAC backing one of the candidates. On February 28, the American Foundations Committee, Inc. filed its statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission. Like all Super PACs, it included a statement announcing that it intended to raise unlimited contributions and would not donate to or coordinate its communications with any federal candidate or committee. Though the group’s website makes no mention of either candidate, all $366,715 of its reported expenditures to date have been in support of Holding and against Coble.
That total is larger than either the Holding or Coble campaigns have expended. And excluding groups aligned with presidential candidates, the American Foundations Committee ranks among top ten highest-spending Super PACs of this campaign cycle.
The Coble campaign, unsurprisingly, has bashed the pro-Holding Super PAC, calling it “a shadowy group” with “dirty money,” from “special interest” “trial lawyers.”
Holding’s dismisses the criticisms, noting that the Super PAC discloses its donors, most of whom are Holding relatives and close friends. Indeed, of the fourteen donors listed on the American Foundations Committee website, six are Holdings and three are Bells (members of his mother’s family). The average contribution, to date, is more than $26,000.
Much like with presidential Super PACs — which allow the richest supporters of candidates to completely evade federal contribution limits and potentially earn special access and influence — the post-Citizens United and SpeechNow.org campaign finance world will undoubtedly mean a lot more House and Senate Super PACs like this one.
Voters around the country, already fed up with Super PACs, should expect to see a lot more of them in the coming months.