In last week’s Pay Dirt, we examined a network of dark-money groups highly active in, among other races, the special election in South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District last year. One of those groups, Conservative Leadership Alliance, has spent more than $540,000 trying to elect State Rep. Tommy Pope in that race. When he narrowly lost to Rep. Ralph Norman, the group went dormant. But it re-emerged in Ohio this week with $113,000 in ad buys, with half attacking Christina Hagan, a state representative running for Congress in the state’s 5th District, and the other half boosting Anthony Gonzalez, Hagan’s opponent and a former Buckeyes and Colts wide receiver.
The race is already rife with allegations of illegal politicking. The Washington Examiner had the scoop on Monday on an Federal Election Commission complaint alleging that Gonzalez’s campaign illegally coordinated with a super PAC funded entirely by his father. That complaint focuses on a pair of suspiciously similar mailers, one from the campaign and one from the super PAC, sent within two days of each other.
The Conservative Leadership Alliance hasn’t been accused of anything illegal. But it does signal efforts by some deep pockets to meddle in the race without being identified. Like other dark-money groups involved in direct electioneering activity, CLA is very hush-hush about its funders and its activities. The group hasn’t existed long enough to file an annual tax form with the IRS; its website offers little to no information; and its treasurer, Marc Himmelstein, didn’t respond to numerous requests this week for additional information about the group.