A political action committee that so far has reported no donations in the current campaign cycle has just unleashed $1.5 million in Internet advertising to help Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The big web buy, which features a reedy-voiced young girl accusing President Barack Obama of leaving her generation in the lurch, comes courtesy of Right Change, a committee that was active on behalf of a number of Republican House and Senate candidates in 2010 but is only now surfacing in this year's campaign.
According to the group's website, Right Change encompasses a "national movement" of more than 600,000 people, including "conservative film, Hollywood, TV and technology professionals."
Its only donor on record with the Federal Election Commission, however, dates from 2010 and come from a single individual: Fred Eshelman, a Wilmington, N.C. pharmaceutical entrepreneur. He underwrote Right Change to the tune of nearly $3 million in 2010, according to data downloaded from Sunlight's Influence Explorer. Keith Appell, a well-known conservative strategist listed as the media contact for Right Change, says he no longer works for the group.
Updated Nov. 6: Eshelman remained almost the sole means of support for the group this year, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service, ponying up a total of more than $2.5 million during the second quarter, the third quarter and in the weeks just prior to the election. According to a 990 report on file with the IRS, Right Change made more than $3.9 million in political expenditures in 2010. The 990 lists Fletcher Hartsell, a Republican who is seeking his 12th term in the North Carolina state Senate, as one of the officers. In addition, since we first filed this report, a related committee Rightchange.com II Inc., has surfaced on Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money tracker. It spent $40,000 on web advertisements to support Romney. Organized as a 501(c)4, the group will not be obligated to disclose its donors publicly. Hat tip to blogger Greg Flynn for directing us to the IRS filings.
Eshelman, who founded Pharmaceutical Products Development and now heads another Furiex Inc., has been a generous backer of Republican causes, having donated more than $3.3 million since 1996, according to data downloaded from Sunlight's Influence Explorer. Right Change played heavily in the 2010 midterm elections, Sunlight reported, and produced anti Obama advertisements in 2008 that FactCheck.org called inaccurate.
Right Change is one of a number of groups dropping seven-figure sums to help Romney or other Republican candidates in the closing days of the campaign. Others are more familiar players with longer track records:
- 60 Plus Association: $1.8 million in support of Romney.
- Americans for Prosperity: $1.38 million against Obama.
- Restore Our Future: $4.5 million against Obama.
- Crossroads GPS: $1.1 million against the Democratic candidate in Nevada's Senate race, Rep. Shelley Berkley and $1.3 million against Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.
- American Crossroads: $1.3 million against the Democratic candidate in Indiana's Senate race, Rep. Joe Donnelly.