Home Politics Republican mega-donor funds super PAC targeting Summer Lee

Republican mega-donor funds super PAC targeting Summer Lee

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Republican mega-donor funds super PAC targeting Summer Lee

Republican mega-donor Jeff Yass recently donated to a super PAC that is trying to unseat a progressive incumbent in Pittsburgh.

The Moderate PAC, an outside group that aims to support centrist Democrats, has been pushing a primary challenge to Rep. Summer Lee, a member of “The Squad.” Lee and her supporters are quick to point out that Yass, a Pennsylvania businessman, donated $1 million to the PAC in 2022, when he spent it supporting Democratic Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Don Davis of North Carolina.

In fact, Yass has donated more to the group in recent weeks, moderate PAC Chairman Ty Strong told POLITICO, the first time that donation has been publicly disclosed.

The Moderate PAC was formed last cycle and received almost no donations last year. When the PAC began airing its first ad last month (a contrast ad boosting Lee’s rival, Edgewood City Council member Bhavini Patel), Strong said it was funded by donations raised in Lee’s 12th District.

Strong declined to say how much the billionaire donated this time, saying details will be revealed in a campaign finance presentation due later this month. He said he approached Yass in March after receiving donations from district voters.

“I went to Jeff Yass and made him a proposal,” Strong said. “He didn’t know anything about Summer. …He is a very rich guy, so he made a donation commensurate with her wealth. But there are other people in Pittsburgh who are now seeing this and doing the same thing. So it’s not Jeff Yass, it’s Pittsburgh and I who realized that this far-left member should not represent a D+8 district.”

Strong said Pittsburgh-based donations will match Yass’ contribution.

Yass is a major donor to the conservative Club for Growth. He has also made headlines recently amid congressional pressure for TikTok’s Chinese-owned parent company, in which Yass has investments, to sell the app. Strong said Yass “has no advantage here, other than he likes a moderate Democrat, as opposed to a far-left Democrat.”

“He’s obviously portrayed a certain way in the media,” said Strong, a former financial analyst. “But I realized that what really matters to him is that he is a libertarian, but he is also a free marketer. And with my economic background, I talked about that. … He likes certain Democrats and he likes Bhavini as a Democrat.”

Lee in a statement condemned “super PACs funded by Republican billionaires,” saying they “have no place in our Democratic primaries or our democracy.”

“I will never stop defending our abortion rights, protecting our public schools or demanding that billionaires pay their fair share, so I’m grateful to be an enemy of an extremist like Jeffrey Yass,” Lee said.

The moderate PAC released its second ad on Tuesday. accusing Lee of “opposition” president Joe Biden. The group has spent more than $500,000 on television and digital advertising since the beginning of the year, according to ad tracker AdImpact. (Patel’s campaign has spent about $150,000.) Strong said future investments will depend on fundraising, but that the group will “stay in the race and keep the same pace as long as we can.”

Outside players are also coming to Lee’s aid. The Working Families Party, Muslim advocacy group Emgage and Justice Democrats are planning to spend a combined $500,000 on television and digital ads to boost the incumbent, said Ari Kamen, Mid-Atlantic regional director for the Working Families Party. Working Families. That investment complements the more than $700,000 Lee has already put into the airwaves.

Lee’s allies are explicitly using Yass’s support to try to discredit their rival. “Attacks on Congresswoman Summer Lee are funded by a Republican billionaire,” said a group announcement which was published last week carries with.

There is one notable player that remains to be seen: United Democracy Project, the super PAC arm of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Lee and other members of The Squad have been preparing for a big expense of the group, as AIPAC has promised to give up $100 million this cycle to oust progressives for their support of Palestinians amid the war between Israel and Hamas.

The group typically begins spending on elections in the weeks leading up to the election, but the April 23 primary in Pennsylvania is less than three weeks away.

“The clock is ticking,” said Mike Mikus, a Pittsburgh-based Democratic strategist who is not involved in the race. “As each day goes by, it’s a day they can’t get back, especially since mail-in ballots will soon be in people’s hands.”

A version of this story first appeared in POLITICO Pro’s Morning Score newsletter.Sign up for POLITICO Pro.

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