Five new super PACs appear linked to GOP Senate leadership

by and
Head and shoulders shot of Sen. John Cornyn, white haired man with blue eyes wearing dark jacket, pale blue shirt and red print tie
Texas Republican John Cornyn, his party’s No. 2 leader in the Senate, appears to be behind an effort to establish pop-up super PACs to help the GOP take control of the Senate. (Photo credit: U.S. Congress via GitHub)

Is Senate GOP leadership wading into the 2014 fray with a bevy of last-minute, unlimited money machines?

Five new super PACs bearing the name of five competitive Senate states all list Josh Eboch as treasurer, with an Austin lawyer named as assistant treasurer. The fiscal custodian of those PACs is, presumably, Josh Eboch, who describes himself as political director for the deputy Republican leader in the Senate, John Cornyn of Texas.

Eboch, who uses an Austin address in campaign payroll records, was paid $53,000 by Cornyn’s re-election campaign between August 2013 and June of this year, the most recent period covered by available records. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Eboch still works for Cornyn, though his LinkedIn account says he does. Eboch, whose profile also says he was previously “campaigns manager” at FreedomWorks, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

The paperwork is all from Arlington, Virginia, but the names of these PACs are clearly inspired by some of the year’s hottest Senate races. They are Alaska Priorities, Colorado Priorities, Iowa Priorities, (not to be confused with the Priorities for Iowa Political Fund), Louisiana Priorities and North Carolina Priorities. Each of those states is playing host to a competitive Senate election that could swing control of the chamber to Republicans.

Super PACs aren’t allowed to coordinate with candidates, but there’s nothing to stop them from making plans with Senate leadership’s former staff. Two of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s staff left to run the YG Network, an interconnected set of political groups, including a super PAC that backs candidates favored by a group of Republican congressmen known as the “Young Guns.”

End-of-cycle reporting schedules make it possible for donors to last minute groups to fly mostly under the radar. Reports covering activity before Sept. 30 aren’t due until Oct. 15 (activity between Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 is filed in a report due Oct. 23). That’s in stark contrast to candidate committees, which face heightened disclosure rules in the final days of a campaign. Candidates must report all contributions of $1,000 or more within 48 hours during the final 20 days of a campaign.

It’s unclear when the quintet of “Priorities” PACs got started. One anonymous internet post dated Sept. 23 complains about a robocall received from the phone number of Colorado Priorities trashing Mark Udall, the state’s Democratic senator, who’s in a tight re-election race. Reports have turned up of similar calls from other priorities phone numbers targeting Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.

The paperwork for the PACs was submitted by Karen Blackistone Oaks, a lawyer at powerhouse Republican firm Gober Hilgers in Austin. According to the firm’s website, its name partner, Chris Gober — a veteran of George W. Bush’s presidential campaign — is “well-known for establishing ‘super PACs’ and 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations.”