Senate GOP outside groups raised $17M in first half of 2017

The main outside groups backing Senate Republicans have nearly $22 million combined in their bank accounts after raising $17 million in the first six months of the year.

The massive war chest, raised with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s help, should aid Senate Republicans as they try to win 10 Democratic-held seats in states President Donald Trump won last November, while playing defense for Nevada Sen. Dean Heller and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.

Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC which regularly launches blistering attacks on Democrats in television and digital ads, raised $8.2 million and had $9.6 million on hand as of June 30. One Nation, which promotes GOP policies and Republican senators who back them, raised $8.7 million and had $7 million in its bank account.

Both groups, along with American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, are controlled by Steven Law, a former chief of staff to McConnell who remains a key ally. The two Crossroads groups have largely been dormant since 2014, but American Crossroads still has $1.6 million on hand and GPS has another $3.5 million.

Senate Leadership Fund has already spent some of this year’s haul assisting appointed Alabama Sen. Luther Strange, who is running for the remainder of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate term in a special election. The super PAC has spent millions on ads boosting Strange’s conservative credentials and attacking Rep. Mo Brooks as insufficiently supportive of Trump.

The spending blitz aims to reassure GOP senators worried about primary challenges, including both Heller and Flake, Law said.

"We want senators to know we will have your back when it counts," Law said.

Law credited McConnell’s leadership of the caucus for making the PACs the go-to place for big Republican donors, even with the White House mired in dysfunction and the Republican agenda uncertain.

"The pivotal figure in all this has been McConnell," Law said. "What most of the major donors have concluded is that Mitch McConnell is the one guy who steers clear of the chaos and focuses on the Republican agenda."

This year, McConnell has traveled extensively to meet with potential donors and hear their concerns, visiting Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Palm Beach, Fla.

This year’s haul outpaces what the Senate GOP network raised in 2015, when they finished the first half of the year with $13.8 million on hand across the four groups and collectively raised just under $12 million.

It also gives them a likely overall cash advantage over Senate Majority PAC, their equivalent on the Democratic side. The Democratic super PAC has about $4.5 million on hand, although it did not reveal how much cash an affiliated nonprofit, Majority Forward, has in the bank.

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