Spending Big Money to Fight Big-Money Contributions

The Citizens United ruling unleashed a torrent of big-donor campaign giving that a new bipartisan group called Mayday Super PAC is trying to reverse by spending money to elect campaign reformers.Most political action committee solicitations don't start with "Embrace the irony," but the crowd-funded Mayday Super PAC is different. It is spending big sums to rail against big-money Super PACs. 

The brainchild of liberals, big donors and Republican strategists, the Mayday PAC is an attempt to get the issue of big money in politics on the table as a discussion topic in the upcoming general election and beyond. 

This isn't civil disobedience to fight injustice. This is an all-out attempt to spend money to fight money. Think of it as the anti-Koch brothers PAC.

The Mayday ad campaign is scheduled to launch next week in Iowa and New Hampshire. The campaign in New Hampshire will support Jim Rubens, a former GOP state senator, in a Republican primary against transplanted former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown in the Granite State's upcoming GOP primary. In Iowa, Mayday is backing Staci Appel, a Democrat, for an open congressional seat. 

Mayday is aligned with another new organization, Every Voice, that will focus on state races, with the same overall message, but with a different emphasis on raising money at the grassroots level from small donors to offset big-donor giving.

Trying to reverse the Supreme Court 2010 Citizens United decision, which opened the door to unfettered corporate and union campaign contributions, has been seen as largely a Democratic issue. However, Mayday backers believe there is bipartisan support for limits on campaign cash among rank-and-file Republicans. They think a couple of strategic victories could change the conversation on campaign reform in Congress.

Iowa and New Hampshire, which have constituencies open to anti-big donor appeals, offer opportunities for strategic victories because ad buys are relatively cheap and there is only so much airtime to buy in their smallish media markets.

GOP strategists involved in Mayday, which include a former top adviser to President George W. Bush, aren't Benedict Arnolds. They have analyzed Barack Obama's ability to out-raise his Republican presidential rivals in two straight elections as a harbinger that big money doesn't always equate to winning an election. They also note the upset loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to an upstart GOP challenger, despite having a massive campaign war chest advantage. 

Mayday and Every Voice supporters, which include Apple co-creator Steve Wozniak and actor Jason Alexander, believe a few targeted election victories will elevate the issue of big money in campaigns and lead to reform legislation that gets more than token attention in the halls of Congress.