A new Republican political action committee that can accept unlimited campaign donations will be “laser-focused” on preserving the party’s House majority in the 2012 elections, said a former senator helping oversee the effort.
“We don’t take for granted that we keep the majority,” said Norm Coleman, a one-term senator from Minnesota. “You have to work for it, and that’s what we’re prepared to do.”
Coleman, who lost his seat in the 2008 election to Democrat Al Franken, serves as chairman of the Washington-based political action committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund.
He said the group will support candidates who share its “center-right” political views for boosting the U.S. economy through low taxes and spending. It also will concentrate its efforts on the “most electable” candidates.
“Races are won within the 40-yard lines. You’ve got to be able to appeal to independents,” Coleman said today at a breakfast with journalists hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Coleman and PAC president Brian Walsh declined to reveal fundraising goals or strategy for the group, which filed organizing papers last month with the Federal Election Commission in Washington and has the support of House Republican leaders.
“We want to be as active as we possibly can, and we have very aggressive fundraising under way right now,” said Walsh, a former political director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the political arm of House Republicans.
“It’s too soon to tell” how much money the group will raise, Coleman said, because “the super PAC is new.”
Unlike national party organizations, which have federal limits on the amounts they can raise, so-called super PACs can take in unlimited funds from any source. Spawned by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling on campaign financing, super PACs aren’t permitted to coordinate strategy with the candidates they support. There are now more than 240 super PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington group that tracks money in politics.
The most vulnerable Republican House members include some of the 87 freshmen elected last November, when the party made a net gain of 63 seats to win a majority after four years of Democratic rule.
‘Far More Intense’
The proliferation of super PACs to augment political spending by candidates and national party committees means that House campaigns in 2012 will be “far more intense than they have in the past,” Walsh said.
Walsh said that about one-fourth of the 435 House districts may be “potentially competitive” in next year’s campaign, though any such estimate is complicated by the still-incomplete process of redrawing congressional districts following the 2010 Census. Representative Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said yesterday that a redrawing of his district precipitated his decision not to seek a 17th term next year.
“The battlefield is still emerging, and we likely won’t know what is until next summer,” Walsh said.
Coleman and Walsh said their group’s fundraising efforts wouldn’t slacken even as nonpartisan election analysts such as the Washington-based Cook Political Report say Republicans are favored to maintain control of the House.
“The day you stop fighting for the majority is the day you start losing the majority,” Walsh said.
Republicans hold a 242-192 majority in the chamber, and the one vacancy is in an Oregon district previously held by a Democrat, meaning Democrats need a net gain of 25 seats to win a 218-seat majority.
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