Outside groups flood Pa.’s U.S. Senate race with cash | Tuesday Morning Coffee

At more than $12.8M, Pennsylvania is one of the top four targets for outside groups

March 22, 2022 7:13 am

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Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If we knew one thing about the nationally watched contest for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat, we knew it was going to be hugely expensive. And if we knew one thing more, we knew that it was that it was going to be a nasty one.

new analysis by the political prognosticators at Decision Desk HQ sheds more light on the former, revealing that outside groups have pumped an eye-watering $68 million into this season’s U.S. Senate primaries, far outpacing the $48 million spent on Senate primaries at the same point in the 2020.

The bulk of that money has been spent in Republican primaries thus far, according to Decision Desk‘s analysis. Just $2.7 million, still nothing to sneeze at, has been been spent in Democratic races, the analysis found.

You also will not be shocked to learn that Pennsylvania is among the top four states that outside groups are targeting. The seat being vacated by retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, of Lehigh County, will likely determine control the upper chamber.

Reflecting that intense interest, outside groups have pumped a little more than $12.8 million into Pennsylvania’s hotly contested primary election, with one group, Texas-based Honor Pennsylvania Inc., spending $8.6 million so far to elevate the candidacy of Republican David McCormick, a wealthy former hedge fund magnate.

(Source: Decision Desk HQ)

One of the super PAC’s better-known donors is Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, who gave the group $100,000, according to a March 1 analysis by NBC-10 in Philadelphia. A spokesman told the station that he made the donation because McCormick is a close friend.

A spokesperson told the station that Kotick “contributes to Democratic and Republican candidates.”

Another super PAC, American Leadership Action, has spent $1.36 million in support of one of McCormick’s main rivals for the Republican nomination, television physician Dr. Mehmet Oz, according to the Decision Desk analysis.

The super PAC has aired advertisements accusing McCormick of being a “friend” to China who offshored jobs in Pittsburgh, and of being out of step with former President Donald Trump, according to an analysis by But the ads “distort some facts to make that case,” according to FactCheck’s analysis.

All told, Oz has been the biggest target of outside groups, who have spent a whopping $8.6 million working for his defeat, according to the Decision Desk analysis.

Still another group, Jobs for Our Future, has spent nearly $500,000 to support Republican candidate Jeff Bartos of Montgomery County, according to NBC-10.

Bartos, who made an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2018, has cast himself as the authentic Pennsylvanian in the race, compared to both McCormick and Oz, whose ties are more tenuous. Television ads run by the super PAC also seek to reinforce that argument.

In all, outside groups have spent $1.9 million in support of Bartos’ candidacy, according to Decision Desk’s analysis.

(Source: Decision Desk HQ)

The biggest name on the list, the Club for Growth, which has pumped a staggering $14.2 million into the 2022 primary campaign through its PAC, primarily into races in Ohio and North Carolina, should be a familiar one for Toomey-watchers.

During a brief interregnum between representing the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania’s former 15th Congressional District, and his election to the U.S. Senate in 2011, Toomey, a former Wall Streeter, spent four years as president of the ultra-conservative, pro-business and anti-tax organization.

And before we leave Pennsylvania, a new super PAC called the School Freedom Fund raised $5 million from suburban Philadelphia zillionaire Jeff Yass, who is a major proponent of school choice issues.

Flush with Yass’ cash, the super-PAC already has spent more than $1 million backing GOP hopefuls Mo Brooks and Adam Laxalt in Republican primaries in Alabama and Nevada, respectively, according to Decision Desk’s analysis.

Closer to home, Yass is putting his money to work trying to elevate the fortunes of Republican governor candidate Bill McSwain, who is the former U.S. Attorney for the Philly region, the Capital-Star previously reported.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
The Wolf administration scored a win before a regulatory review panel Monday, as it won approval for a suite of regulations governing Pennsylvania’s charter schools. But the Republican-controlled Legislature still has recourse, Marley Parish reports.

State Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Philadelphia, is floating a bill that would move state employees to a four-day working weekStephen Caruso reports.

Reformers March on Harrisburg surveyed 16 candidates for governor, 10 said they’d back a gift ban for Pa. pols, our partners at City & State Pa. report.

Black clergy leaders in Philadelphia have given Mayor Jim Kenney an ‘F’ for his response to the city’s gun violence epidemic, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County has announced that free fares on all of its vehicles will continue through this Sunday, March 27, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

On our Commentary Page, opinion contributor Anwar Curtis makes a long-overdue return, shining the spotlight on an effort to connect Harrisburg’s young people with higher education. And the job is hard enough — just let teachers teach, opinion regular Lloyd E. Sheaffer, a retired teacher, writes.

Philadelphia City Hall (Image via

As his trial gets underway, the Inquirer looks at Philadelphia City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson’s rise to power and his influence in South Philadelphia.

An Allegheny County woman has been charged in connection with the Capitol riot, the Tribune-Review reports.

The big question for Republicans: Whom will ex-President Donald Trump endorse in Pennsylvania’s Big Two racesPennLive reports.

School budget cuts in Elizabethtown could end up eliminating school sports programsLancasterOnline reports.

The York Daily Record explains how Pennsylvania spends its gas tax money.

A federal appeals court has halted the final count and certification of votes in a narrow Lehigh County judicial race, the Morning Call reports.

Students at Holy Redeemer school in Luzerne County are being hailed as ‘heroes’ for helping avert disaster on a school bus ride home, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

A state legislative committee is looking at raising the cap on damages for water main breaksWHYY-FM reports.

Dominion Voting Systems scored a win in Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday, with a 5-2 ruling ensuring that any inspection of its machines during a GOP-led investigation is done by a lab with specific credentials, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

In Erie, multilingual signs will guide visitors to key city destinationsGoErie reports.

Four of the GOP candidates for governor have agreed to criteria for debatesPoliticsPA reports.

Republicans risk alienating key voters with attacks on Kentanji Brown JacksonRoll Call reports.

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What Goes On
9:30 a.m., 140 Main Capitol: House Education Committee
12:45 p.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for social workers

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
7:30 a.m.: Breakfast for LG candidate Jeff Coleman
8 a.m.: Breakfast for Rep. Tom Mehaffie
Hit both events, and give at the max, and you’re out a slightly preposterous $6,000 today.

8:30 a.m., Hershey: The Wolf administration talks about the importance of good data to improving educational outcomes.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to BillyPenn Editor Danya Henninger, and to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Rob Tornoe, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s a song that’s always sounded like spring to me. From The Pet Shop Boys, it’s ‘Suburbia.’ And to keep you going, it’s the nearly 9-minute Shep Pettibone remix.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link
Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come. The Baltimore Orioles pulled out a 10-8 spring training win over the Minnesota Twins on Monday afternoon.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.