BY BEN GOAD
Published: 13 June 2012 06:22 PM
WASHINGTON Fresh off their primary victories, Democratic Rep. Joe Baca and Republican Rep. Gary Miller may face a shared opponent in their respective House races this fall.
The Campaign for Primary Accountability, a new Super-PAC dedicated to ousting certain incumbents from both sides of the aisle, is focusing on the two lawmakers as potential targets in November, Curtis Ellis, the committee’s spokesman revealed.
According to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the Super-PAC was founded in September by Leo Linbeck III, a conservative Texas construction company owner, and it has targeted House incumbents from both parties.
The group mostly involves itself in primaries, spending money on behalf of challengers who usually are unable to raise as much money as incumbents, particularly since the Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United decision ushered in an era of unbridled campaign spending.
While federal law sets limits on contributions to candidates, Super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money through independent expenditures under the ruling, as long as they don’t coordinate efforts with any campaign.
“We’re using the Super-PAC, which has been criticized for allowing too much money into politics — we’re using this tool to correct the problem of too much money in politics,” Ellis said, adding that, in addition to the financial advantage, incumbents also enjoy better name recognition than their challengers.
“They pretty much have a message monopoly, so we come in as the equalizer,” he said.
The Campaign for Primary Accountability already has poured at least $2.4 million into more than a dozen races in the current cycle. The group mostly targets primaries and never gets involved in races involving members of different parties.
But California’s new primary system allows members of the same party to compete in the general election if they are the top to finishers in the primary. Such was the case in 35th and 31st Congressional Districts in San Bernardino County, where Baca will face Democratic state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod and Miller is running against GOP state Sen. Bob Dutton.
Ellis said the group, which has spent as much as $240,000 in support of — or opposition to — a single candidate, had made no final decisions on where to spend its money this fall. But the performances of Negrete McLeod and Dutton in the June 5 primary have attracted the committee’s attention, he said.
Baca, D-Rialto, finished with around 45 percent of the vote in the 35th district, which includes Ontario, Pomona, Chino and parts of both Fontana and Rialto. Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, finished with more than 36 percent, less than 3,000 votes behind Baca, according to yet-to-be certified results.
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