Dem-Aligned Super PAC Spent Over $1.7 Million Against McSally in GOP Primary

Sen. Chuck Schumer / Getty Images
September 21, 2018

Red and Gold, a mysterious super PAC that opposed Rep. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.) during her Senate primary in August, was funded almost entirely by Senate Majority PAC, a super PAC aligned with Senate Democrats.

Newly released campaign finance disclosures show Red and Gold spent funds solely on attacking McSally leading up to the Republican primary on Aug. 28, where McSally defeated two other Republican candidates, Kelli Ward and Sheriff Joe Arpaio. McSally's Democratic opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, would have had a better chance at winning the open seat if Ward or Arpaio had won the primary, according to Politico.

The new disclosure shows that Senate Majority PAC, the main super PAC aligned with Senate Democrats, seeded Red and Gold with $1.7 million as it started attacking McSally in early August. Red and Gold ran attack ads that said McSally supported an "age tax" that led older people to pay significantly more for health insurance.

"It’s an age tax, plain and simple," a woman said in one Red and Gold ad. "Martha McSally puts Washington ahead of Arizona."

The attacks did not do enough damage to keep McSally out of the general election: she won the primary with more than 50 percent of the vote.

Super PACs are normally required by law to disclose their donors before primary elections, but Red and Gold used a campaign finance loophole to change its filing schedule with the Federal Election Commission. Instead of filing quarterly, the group switched to a monthly filing system, which allowed the PAC to avoid filing disclosures on certain dates prior to the primary.

Red and Gold started spending money on Aug. 4, which was more than two weeks before the Aug. 28 primary, but it didn't file its first disclosure until Sept. 20, over three weeks after the election.

Following McSally's victory in the primary, a number of wealthy donors also donated to Red and Gold. Liberal billionaire George Soros donated $600,000 to the super PAC on Aug. 30. James Simmons, the founder of Renaissance Technologies and a Democratic megadonor who amassed billions of dollars in an offshore Bermuda account, donated $500,000 on Aug. 14. AWM Investment Company President Austin Marxe donated $100,000 on Aug. 21.

Sinema has said she's against the influence of special interest money in politics. In December, she touted her endorsement from End Citizens United, a PAC focused on getting big money out of politics and electing campaign finance reform candidates. While Sinema's campaign cannot legally coordinate with the super PAC, there are loopholes around the FEC laws.

J.B. Poersch, an ally of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), was tapped in March 2017 as president of Senate Majority PAC, according to the Hill.

"This mission is more important than ever if Democrats are going to have necessary numbers to fight the Trump agenda," Poersch said last year. "We need a comprehensive [independent expenditure] effort that includes television, digital and grassroots effort to combat the GOP's ‘dark money' cash advantage."

Sinema faces McSally this November in the general election. McSally, a retired Air Force officer, was the first woman in U.S. history to fly a fighter jet in combat and the first to command a fighter squadron.