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Senate campaigns decry, defend PACs

Filings show depth of non-Hoosier money


– Special interests in Washington, D.C., and New York City are trying to unseat Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., according to a “super” political action committee that supports Lugar’s re-election.

Hoosiers for Jobs – formerly known as Hoosiers for Economic Growth and Jobs – recently spent more than $103,000 to run TV ads against Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, Lugar’s challenger in the Republican primary election.

“Richard Mourdock opposes bailouts, except the D.C. special-interest bailout of his campaign,” the spot insisted.

The website of Hoosiers for Jobs shows photos of downtown Indianapolis, the Statehouse and a building at Indiana University in Bloomington. The site lists an Indianapolis post office box.

But Hoosiers for Jobs is based in Sacramento, Calif., according to its filings with the Federal Election Commission. The super PAC, its treasurer and its designated agent all share the mailing address of a Sacramento law firm.

Two of its five contributors – each of whom has donated between $5,000 and $50,000 – are from Indiana.

Another super PAC that is trying to re-elect Lugar is Indiana Values SuperPAC. Despite its name, the organization is based in Washington, D.C. It has spent about $84,000 on Lugar’s behalf. Of its 13 contributors, six live in Washington, four in New York and one in Indiana.

Super PACs are political action groups that can raise and spend unlimited sums of money for or against a candidate. They cannot coordinate their activities with candidates.

On April 13, a group called the American Action Network announced it was launching a nearly $600,000 TV advertising campaign against Mourdock. American Action Network is based in Washington; its chairman is Norm Coleman, a former GOP senator from Minnesota.

Lugar’s campaign has harped about Mourdock’s “outside” supporters – specifically, the super PACs for Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, both Washington-based groups. But an inspection of Lugar’s own FEC reports shows that many of his campaign contributions come from outside Indiana.

Lugar, a six-term incumbent, has collected $1.2 million in donations from traditional PACs for the current election cycle, and most of them are in or near Washington. Although the vast majority can claim to represent employees, offices, stores or other holdings and interests in Indiana, there also are Lugar donors that have no apparent connection to the Hoosier State, such as Florida-based Publix Super Markets and Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers.

“A huge proportion of his money is coming from the D.C. PACs,” Mourdock said in a recent interview about Lugar’s campaign. “It is the trend of the election world today. Senate elections are seen as national elections. We are getting support from all over the country and are proud to receive it.”

Traditional PACs can receive no more than $5,000 from a single donor in a year and can give no more than $5,000 to a single candidate in an election cycle.

Lugar’s campaign contends its out-of-Indiana support and Mourdock’s aren’t cut from the same cloth.

“The fundamental difference is sort of the agenda that groups like Club for Growth and FreedomWorks have in terms of wanting members to make pledges to their agenda and to their agenda alone to get support,” said Andy Fisher, a Lugar campaign spokesman. “Clearly, Treasurer Mourdock went out and sought those endorsements. He went to them and said, ‘I know what your agenda is, and I will do what your agenda is.’ ”

Lugar, on the other hand, is backed by groups that either sprang up specifically to help him or existing PACS that “support Sen. Lugar’s leadership,” Fisher said.

He said Mourdock is “selling out to particular groups to get their support because he wasn’t able to get it in any other fashion.”

Mourdock disputes that notion.

“The PACs that are supporting me are ideological PACs by and large. … These are people who are motivated by an ideology of conservatism,” he said. “When conservatives from all over the country want to help me, I’m proud to have their support.”

He cited Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative organization that advocates tax cuts and a flat tax; the repeal of the estate tax; free-trade agreements; replacing Social Security with personal retirement accounts; and the expansion of school choice, charter schools and school vouchers.

Mourdock said Club for Growth promotes “pro-growth measures that I support. I don’t support them because the Club for Growth believes in them. The Club for Growth is supporting me because I believe in those issues.”

Lugar’s campaign recently said Club for Growth represents no Indiana companies or employees. Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said the organization “has thousands of members from throughout Indiana.”

Club for Growth gathered nearly 200 donations adding up to about $204,000 for Mourdock in the first quarter of 2012. Only nine contributions were from Indiana, including $400 from a Fort Wayne resident and $100 from a Bluffton resident.