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What Do Ralph Hall And Charlie Rangel Have In Common?

While most Americans spent Memorial Day remembering how to get to the nearest beach and forgetting to put on enough sunblock to prevent a burn, players in the political game were busy, looking for new opportunities to buy influence over our democratically-elected government. One of the more interesting of these players is the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a Super PAC that claims to be against long-term incumbents in Congress, regardless of the incumbents’ political party.

The Super PAC says that it is making independent expenditures “To put the voters back in control of the process, we must challenge long-term incumbents and hold them accountable for their deeds. Enough is enough. As our economic crisis deepens, as the federal bureaucracy continues to expand and as lobbyists gain still more power, we must apply leverage where we can: in primary election challenges to incumbent members of Congress.”

This Campaign for Primary Accountability looks like an exciting effort to shake things up in Washington D.C. Why, just yesterday, the Campaign for Primary Accountability spent money to oppose Ralph Hall, a right wing Republican U.S. Representative from Texas and Charlie Rangel, a liberal Democrat U.S. Representative from New York.

It appears that the Campaign for Primary Accountability Super PAC is genuinely going after incumbents in a bipartisan way… until one examines the details of the political action committee’s spending and sources of money.

At first, incumbents like Charles Rangel and Ralph Hall appear to have little in common. But then, consider that Ralph Hall’s Republican opponents Steve Clark and Lou Gigliotti are complaining that Ralph Hall isn’t conservative enough. Ralph Hall has a right wing legislative record, but replacing him with a new member of Congress even further to the right nonetheless would help shift the U.S. House to the right. Rangel’s opponent, Adriano Espaillat, isn’t promising a more liberal agenda than Rangel’s. So, that congressional seat would remain ideologically about the same, but with a less senior politician.

In other districts, the Campaign for Primary Accountability has supported conservative Democrats against relatively liberal Democratic incumbents. This took place when the Campaign for Primary Accountability sent its money to benefit conservative Democrat Debbie Halvorson’s challenge to incumbent Jesse Jackson.

More doubts about the Campaign for Primary Accountability come when the Super PAC spent massive amounts money to support Republican David McIntosh in Indiana’s 5th congressional primary held earlier this month. There was no incumbent running the district. The incumbent, Dan Burton, is retiring. Furthermore, David McIntosh is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, with three terms in Congress, so he was the closest thing that race had to an incumbent. If the Campaign for Primary Accountability is truly focused on getting old faces out of Congress, why would it support the effort of an old incumbent to regain power?

Among the donors to the Campaign for Primary Accountability are Al Hubbard and Jim Kittle, both former chairs of the Indiana Republican Party. Could that have had something to do with the Super PAC’s independent expenditures for David McIntosh?

Other donors to the Campaign for Primary Accountability include the Every Republican Is Crucial PAC, the Illinois 18th District Republican Central Committee, and Joe Ricketts, the Illinois Republican whose Ending Spending Action Fund Super PAC drafted an advertisement accusing Barack Obama of acting like a “black, metrosexual Abe Lincoln”. Most donors to the Campaign for Primary Accountability are corporate executives. A very large number of them are executives from the oil industry.

There are no Democratic Party organizations or liberal PACs that have donated to the Campaign for Primary Accountability. The Super PAC’s money appears to come from the GOP and from the corporate world, and mostly in the form of large donations from wealthy individuals.

Claims by the Campaign for Primary Accountability to be non-partisan and to be concerned only with open political process, rather than particular ideological and economic interests, should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

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