Super PAC Spends $200,000 to Boost Candidate In Crowded Dist. 6 GOP Contest

Super PAC Spends $200,000 to Boost Candidate In Crowded Dist. 6 GOP Contest

Funds to be used for ads backing Amie Hoeber as she seeks nod to take on incumbent Delaney

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Amie Hober, who is running for the Sixth Congressional District Republican nomination

Via Amie Hoeber

Maryland USA, a so-called “Super PAC,” made its first expenditures of the 2015-2016 campaign just prior to Thanksgiving—allotting more than $200,000 for advertising to boost the candidacy of Republican Amie Hoeber of Potomac, a national security consultant seeking her party’s nomination against Democratic Rep. John Delaney in District 6 next year.

First created last summer, Maryland USA disclosed last week that it had spent nearly $19,800 to produce pro-Hoeber advertising for mobile devices, while committing $181,200 for placement of such advertising. The filing with the Federal Election Commission did not say when the advertising would begin.

Hoeber is among eight candidates seeking the GOP nod against Delaney, who was first elected in 2012 in a redrawn congressional district that extends from Potomac and Gaithersburg nearly 200 miles north and west through Maryland’s panhandle. About half of the district’s voters reside in Montgomery County, with the rest spread across four counties in the western part of the state.    

Maryland USA’s initial spending on Hoeber’s behalf—first reported by A Miner Detail, a local politics blog—follows a report filed last month by Hoeber’s own campaign committee, showing her with significantly greater resources than other candidates in the District 6 GOP field. In a quarterly FEC statement on Oct. 15, Hoeber said her committee had taken in nearly $185,000, including $85,000 in outside donations and a $100,000 loan from the candidate herself.

Federal campaign finance regulations prohibit Maryland USA, an “independent expenditure” political action committee, from coordinating its activities with those of Hoeber’s own campaign entity, Amie Hoeber for Congress. However, sources told Bethesda Beat in early September that the major source of funding for Maryland USA is expected to be Hoeber’s husband, Mark Epstein. A multimillionaire who is a former executive of Qualcomm, a San Diego-based technology firm, Epstein is said to be prepared to contribute as much as $1 million to Maryland USA to boost Hoeber’s congressional bid.

It was not immediately clear whether the $200,000 just spent by Maryland USA was donated by Epstein or other sources. FEC officials said the Super PAC was not required to disclose recent donations until Jan. 31, when reports for the fourth quarter of 2015 are filed. However, a separate FEC regulation requires Super PACs to report aggregate expenditures of more than $10,000 within 48 hours of being made.

Two 2010 court cases—Citizens United vs. FEC and SpeechNow.org vs. FEC—paved the way for creation of Super PACs, which have become widespread albeit controversial features in federal election campaigns. Super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited amounts from individuals as well as corporations and labor unions to advocate for or against designated candidates.

In contrast, campaign committees established by candidates themselves are barred from accepting funds directly from corporations or labor unions. The latter entities often form traditional political action committees to funnel donations from employees or members to candidates. But those types of PACS can donate no more than $5,000 per election to an individual candidate.

The limit on direct contributions by an individual donor to a candidate is $2,700 per election. Epstein already has “maxed out” by giving $2,700 to his wife’s campaign committee, but there is no limit on the amount he can steer to Maryland USA for the benefit of her candidacy.

Maryland USA lists Joel Riter, a Washington-based political consultant, as its treasurer. Riter has specialized in setting up Super PACs in recent years, according to a report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He is a former aide to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, and, in 2012, established a Super PAC to aid Mandel’s challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The $181,000 in ad placements reported by Maryland USA were made by 406 Enterprises LLC, which lists Washington D.C. post office box as its address. The nearly $20,000 paid for the mobile advertising production went to Pound, Feinstein & Associates, a Richmond, Va.-based  consulting firm that has done extensive work for Republican candidates.

Delaney has been passing the word in party circles that he is interested in running for governor in 2018, and is clearly hoping his re-election bid next year—when the presidential race is expected to boost Democratic Party turnout in Maryland—will provide him with momentum toward a future statewide run. Two independent Washington publications that track congressional campaigns around the country—the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report—both currently assess District 6 as a “safe Democratic” seat in 2016.

This has not deterred national GOP strategists from eyeing the district, where Delaney defeated Republican Dan Bongino in 2014 by only 50-48 percent, amid low Democratic turnout and a strong showing by now-Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in counties in the district outside of Montgomery.

Hoeber, a deputy undersecretary of the Army during the Reagan administration, has been running since late July, after being encouraged to run by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC)—the campaign arm of Republicans in the U.S. House.

Making her first run for elective office at age 74, Hoeber earlier this month received a public boost from the NRCC when she was among the candidates named to its “Young Guns” program. The NRCC describes the latter effort as “a recruitment program that identifies candidates across the country who embody the principles of the House Republican Conference and show promise of running a successful campaign.”   

On top of the independent expenditures from Maryland USA, Hoeber reported having $147,000 in her own campaign treasury as of the end of September. While considerably less than the warchests accumulated by several candidates in the Democratic primary in the neighboring 8th Congressional District, the costly Washington, D.C. media market is less of a factor in District 6—where the westernmost county, Garrett, actually lies in the Pittsburgh television market.

Hoeber’s latest cash on hand figure is five times the $29,000 reported by another major contender for the District 6 GOP nomination, Del. David Vogt of Frederick County. Since announcing his candidacy in May, Vogt has reported raising about $50,000.

Two other District 6 Republican hopefuls, businessman Frank Howard of Laytonsville and Washington County Board of Commissioners President Terry Baker, have lagged in fundraising. Howard reported raising $18,000 in his latest FEC report, with just over $7,100 in his campaign treasury as of Sept. 30. Howard, who mounted a competitive race for a state Senate seat in Montgomery County last year, earlier served as chairman of Bongino’s 2014 campaign—and appears to be counting on grassroots support from Bongino’s former political network.

Baker has reported raising only $13,000 so far, with less than $3,400 in his campaign treasury as of the end of September. Another contender, Harold Painter, a Gaithersburg accountant who lost the 2014 Republican primary to Bongino by a wide margin, has reported raising and spending $1,750 so far this year. Two other District 6 GOP aspirants, Scott Cheng of Montgomery Village and Christopher Mason of Frederick County, have filed statements of candidacy but have yet to report any contributions or expenditures to the FEC.

The remaining Republican primary election contender, attorney Robin Ficker, did not file to run until last month, and is not required to disclose donations and expenditures to the FEC until the end of January. Ficker has made nine separate runs for federal, state or local office since 2000, including a previous campaign for the District 6 Republican nod in 2012 and a 2004 bid for the GOP congressional nomination in adjacent District 8.

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