Matt Bevin loses his TV-funding super PAC
When the Republican super PAC that has been helping Matt Bevin went off the air this week with no definite plans to return, it got the political class in Kentucky trying to divine what is going on in the GOP that would cause the Republican Governors Association to walk away — at least temporarily — from a race that by every indication is as tight as a tic.
The RGA has, up until now, largely been Bevin’s presence on television, pouring some $3 million dollars into television advertising while Democrat Jack Conway and the Kentucky Family Values PAC have spent millions attacking Bevin for failing to pay taxes and flip-flopping on various issues.
Bevin has spent just about 5 percent of what the political action committee has put up.
That’s got Democrats and others speculating — and rumors rampant — that there could be an internal struggle going on between the Bevin campaign and the RGA because Bevin’s fundraising has been anemic at this point and he has failed to write a check to show that he is serious about winning.
Democratic consultant Danny Briscoe said that he is hearing that the group isn’t happy with Bevin and has pulled down its ads in an effort to goose him into spending some of his wealth, which he estimated on federal financial disclosure statements to be between $13.4 and $54.9 million when he ran against Mitch McConnell in the 2014 U.S. Senate Primary.
“The RGA is clearly unhappy that Bevin has not put up more of his own money and they probably are displeased by all the unnecessary gaffes and controversies in Bevin’s campaign,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Jon Thompson, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association, said the group is simply taking a breath and reevaluating the situation before making its next move. “We could very well go back up,” he said. He wouldn’t say why the campaign has decided to stop airing ads just five weeks before the election.
Jessica Ditto, a spokeswoman for Bevin, said the campaign is set to go up on the air Wednesday with another ad but declined to say how big the ad buy is for or whether the RGA has sent word to the campaign that it is unhappy with Bevin for lackluster fundraising and his refusal to carry more of the load at this point.
Money shouldn’t be a huge issue for the RGA because there are only three governors races going on this year and Republicans are heavily favored to win in Mississippi and Louisiana. The real question the group has to answer is whether to spend the money now or hoard it until 2016 when it will have numerous competitive races.
Kim Geveden said he suspects that the RGA is stopping because it believes Bevin has the money now to establish a serious presence on television and plans to hit the air again as the election nears, or that, as Briscoe and Sabato claim, the group is tired of carrying the load for a multi-millionaire who isn’t raising money and won’t write a check.
Geveden added that the group may have seen something in the polling that makes it believe Bevin cannot win, but he said that’s not likely considering that
While Conway and a Democratic PAC have teamed up to batter Bevin on the issues of flip-flops and tax delinquencies, Bevin has put hardly any skin in the game. Since May, Bevin’s campaign has run one ad and spent only about $150,000 doing it — about 5 percent of what has been spent by the RGA, which generally supplements candidates rather than effectively running entire campaigns for them.
“If Bevin wants them back in, he will have to spend a fair amount of his own money,” said Sabato. “I don’t think they will carry him across the finish line.”
Republican Ted Jackson said, however, he believes the RGA believes Bevin can win with or without its help, otherwise they would continue spending money, even if they are unhappy with Bevin.
“The fact they’re not up today doesn’t mean they are not going to be up,” said Jackson. “Even if the RGA is pissed off, they’re not going to let their feelings get in the way of winning this race.”
Fundraising events for Bevin have been fewer and much smaller than the events where Conway has raked in millions of dollars.
At the end of the last fundraising reporting period in July, Bevin had just $2,954.64 on hand following a tough primary, while Conway had more than $1.5 million in the bank.
The vast majority of the $2.6 million Conway raised by July came from donors, while all but $141,000 of the $2.7 million Bevin raised came from Bevin himself. It’s unclear exactly how much Bevin is worth. In a financial disclosure form filed with the U.S. Senate when he challenged U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014, Bevin estimated his holdings to be between $13.4 million and $54.9 million.
By Joseph Gerth