THE CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND
Who runs it?
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, and his hand-picked team (Executive Director Cory Bliss and Finance Director Mason Fink).
If you’re asking yourself, how can Martha McSally be an independent voice representing Southern Arizona, when the Speaker of the House is a major contributor to her campaign? — the answer is, she can’t. Ryan keeps her on a very short leash.
Who funds it?
We only know part of the answer to this. Direct donors to the CLF are listed on the FEC’s web site, but the CLF also receives anonymous donations funneled through its “sister organization,” the American Action Network ($7 million thus far in 2017). Corry Bliss is Executive Director of both funds.
Looking at the donors (the ones we know about) the past few years, some patterns emerge. There is significant overlap with the top Trump donors, including Sheldon Adelson, Linda McMahon, Bernard Marcus, Bob McNair and Ronald Cameron, among many others.
Wall Street is heavily overrepresented, with major donations from big money managers like Steve Cohen, Paul E. Singer, Charles B. Johnson, Daniel Loeb, Stephen Schwarzman, Julian Robertson, William Oberndorf, Warren Stephens and Kenneth Griffin.
The oil and gas industry has a strong presence, too, with donations from Chevron, Devon Energy, and Paul Foster, the chairman of Western Refining. Devon Energy in particular is closely allied with Scott Pruitt, the current head of the EPA and “a longtime opponent of federal environmental regulations and a denier of climate change.”
What do CLF’s donors want?
The #1 directive to CLF recipients is to vote in line with Paul Ryan. When Iowa Rep. David Young announced his opposition to Ryan’s health care bill (the AHCA), the CLF cut off its support of his campaign and closed its field office in his district.
Defy Paul Ryan, and not only will a politician lose her funding, she could gain a primary challenger. CLF donor Ronald Cameron publicly threatened to finance primary challenges to any Republican legislator who voted against the AHCA, or anything else Trump wanted. “I might support a challenger, and would certainly withhold support from someone that I thought was against Trump’s agenda.”
Why such adamant support for the AHCA, from billionaires who never have to worry about health care affordability? Simple: the massive tax cuts for the wealthy embedded in the bill. Top CLF contributor Sheldon Adelson, for instance, would have received an estimated $43 million in tax cuts, per year, if the AHCA had passed.
In a recent letter to investors, CLF donor / hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer spelled out his wish list: a “pro-growth agenda” that he defined as tax cuts, cutting regulations and infrastructure spending. Singer’s views presumably carry extra weight with McSally, since he’s donated hundreds of thousands to her campaign directly through his Winning Women PAC.
There are two main categories of regulations to which Singer is opposed: financial and environmental. Singer has referred to the Dodd-Frank regulations, intended to prevent another financial crisis, as “entirely nutty,” and has said that he wants to see the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau placed under congressional control (in other words, under Paul Ryan and the CLF’s control).
Singer is just one of several CLF donors who are climate science deniers and/or strongly opposed to federal environmental protections. He and his CLF co-contributors Paul Foster, Ronald Cameron and Kenneth Griffin have all made 7-figure donations to the Freedom Partners Action Fund, a SuperPAC affiliated with the Koch brothers and their decades-long battle against the EPA.
What impact has the CLF had in AZ-02?
In 2014, the CLF spent more than $1.2 million advertising against Rep. Ron Barber, and $37,000 in favor of McSally. Its “sister organization,” the American Action Network (AAN), spent more than $500,000 opposing Barber.
In 2016, the CLF claimed to have spent more than $700,000 on TV and digital advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts to support McSally in her race against Dr. Matt Heinz.
In March of 2017, the AAN announced a six-figure digital ad buy targeting 30 districts, including McSally’s, to encourage votes for the AHCA.
In August of 2017, the AAN announced a $5 million Spanish-language ad campaign to target 6 districts, including McSally’s, with a message promoting tax reform.
In September of 2017, the AAN announced a $2.5 million ad campaign in 23 districts, including McSally’s, again promoting tax reform.
In September of 2017, the CLF announced that it had opened a field office in Tucson to support McSally’s campaign. “When it comes to Martha McSally, we’ve got her back,” [Executive Director] Bliss said. “We’ll do whatever it takes to get her re-elected.”
What is the CLF getting for its investment?
In McSally, the Trump supporters have a representative who votes with Trump more than 95% of the time.
Paul Ryan has a loyal soldier who votes for his agenda, regardless of the impact on her own constituents. McSally voted for the AHCA’s tax cuts for the wealthy, even though it would have caused more than 45,000 people in her district to lose out on health care coverage. Ryan surely expects her to back his vision for tax reform (read: tax cuts for the wealthy) as well.
Wall Streeters like Paul Singer got another vote to repeal the Dodd-Frank regulations and gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
And the CLF’s anti-environmentalists are no doubt thrilled to be funding a politician with a 3% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters.