A super PAC has been set up to boost US Representative Conor Lamb’s campaign for the Senate – and if he raises as much money as he expects, it could help him close a financial gap with his main rival Democrat, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman.
Messages sent to potential donors this week, obtained by The Inquirer, set the goal of spending $8 million on TV ads and other paid media before Pennsylvania’s primary election in May. Some big Democratic donors in Pennsylvania have received emails from famed political strategist James Carville introducing them to the group, Penn Progress, and asking them to support him.
“I wanted to tell you about the most important Senate race in the country in November, which is happening in Pennsylvania,” Carville wrote in an email. “There is no way for Democrats to expand our Senate majority if we don’t win the Pennsylvania Senate seat and the best person to win this race is my good friend Conor Lamb. … Conor has a tough primary, and I was hoping you could help him out by supporting Penn Progress, the independent effort set up to make sure Conor is our candidate.
In a memo Penn Progress sent to potential donors last fall, the group described themselves as “veteran campaign strategists with thirty years of electoral experience in Pennsylvania and beyond.”
Federal campaign finance laws place strict limits on the amount that individuals and many other political committees can donate directly to political campaigns. Super PACs are not subject to these contribution limits, meaning they can spend huge sums to influence elections. They are not authorized to coordinate their activities with or contribute to the campaigns they support.
READ MORE: Oz spends his own money, Fetterman overtakes Democrats, and more from Pa. Senate fundraising reports
Penn Progress registered with the Federal Election Commission in September. He said he only raised $35,000 in 2021. His memo sets an ambitious goal of spending $8 million on paid media statewide, $200,000 on polling, and $60,000 on research, a website, and social media.
That kind of money could fill the fundraising chasm between Lamb and Fetterman, which raised $12 million last year and continues to draw huge sums from most regular small donors. Lamb raised $4 million last year after entering the campaign later, and entered 2022 with about $3 million in the bank, compared to Fetterman’s $5.3.
Steve Cozen, a prominent Democratic donor from the Philadelphia area, donated $10,000 to Penn Progress, according to the group’s federal filing. Cozen had already contributed the maximum allowed to Lamb’s campaign – $2,900 for the primaries and $2,900 for the general election. The Sheetmetal Workers Union, which endorsed Lamb, gave the PAC $35,000.
The companies listed on the memo as being involved are Ralston Lapp Guinn, which created digital ads for Eric Adams’ mayoral race in New York; ALG research, a survey company; Berger Hirschberg Strategies, a fundraising firm that worked for Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign; and D’Amico Strategy & Communications, which specializes in opposition research.
A website for PennProgress has not yet been set up.
The Republican Senate primary, already awash with spending from wealthy candidates, also includes at least three so-called independent spending groups — one for Mehmet Oz, David McCormick and Jeff Bartos.
The McCormick-aligned super PAC, backed in large part by fellow hedge fund executive Kenneth Griffin, recently bought a $12 million TV ad to hammer Oz.
-Writer Jonathan Tamari contributed to this article.