In a Washington Post article this week, the word is out that Steve Bannon is targeting “establishment” Senate incumbents. In the article, it was mentioned that hedge fund “magnate” Robert Mercer was dropping funds into super PACs. He gave $13.5 million to Ted Cruz in 2016. And he’s now dropping $50,000 into a super PAC to ostensibly prop up State Senator Chris McDaniel, who was Ted Cruz’s state chairman in the last presidential primary against Donald Trump.
The super PAC is called “Remember Mississippi” which was a sort of rallying cry to foster the tortured narrative that the 2014 US Senate primary against Thad Cochran was somehow “stolen” from McDaniel.
The treasurer for the super PAC on the registration documents is Susan Perkins. Susan offices part time out of the Hortman Harlow law firm, at which McDaniel is a partner. She also appears to have (or at least have had) free reign over Chris’s personal Facebook page.
Ms. Perkins also serves as the contact for his state campaign account.
The address listed for the super PAC is listed at her residence at 2631 Highway 29 North in Laurel. Not exactly where you’d think a New York hedge fund billionaire would be dropping cash to buy a US Senate Seat.
Ms. Perkins, when reached at the Hortman Harlow law firm, referred me to former State Senator Melanie Sojourner as the person most involved with the super PAC. Sojourner served as campaign manager for McDaniel in 2014 and subsequently lost her state Senate seat. When reached, Sojourner stated that there will be a more formal roll out of the super PAC and its governance in the coming weeks.
Normally, you’d think that super PACs can’t be that closely affiliated to the folks they’re trying to support. But since Chris McDaniel has not yet announced for anything, there’s no harm no foul, yet (theoretically). This is the new wink-wink-nod-nod DC establishment way of doing things now. It’s basically the tactic that Jeb Bush took in 2015 where he established a super PAC before he officially announced a campaign, so he could directly raise money not subject to any real limits or oversight and then it would become “independently run” after a campaign was begun in earnest.
The amount of money Robert Mercer put in so far is hardly belief money. It appears that he is no surer about whether McDaniel will actually pull the trigger than anyone else, but this super PAC will be the vehicle to watch. If a bunch of money (north of $500K) shows up, he’s likely in. If not, he’s likely out.
The optics of how this super PAC was set up was just horribly sloppy as it brings his law firm of Hortman Harlow now into the fray again as well. It just strains credulity to believe that a McDaniel supporter who’s not an insider heretofore and not directly affiliated with the campaign couldn’t have been found to be the contact person on this. If he announces for US Senate, everything Perkins ever done for him or with him will come into more scrutiny putting a prospective McDaniel campaign on defense the day it happens. It’s hard to believe that such a simple unforced error even at the point where someone is just considering a campaign could be made after the repeated foot-shooting campaign mishaps in 2014. The knock on McDaniel was usually more about the people working for him and on his behalf and the mayhem that ensued. Between that sloppiness and a firm anti-Trump stance in the 2016 primaries and even public statements against Trump policies going into this year, it’s going to be hard to see this thing get off the ground.
But there is another explanation. As I have said before, I don’t believe McDaniel will actually run against Wicker for the U.S. Senate. While it would again be entertaining, in the end I believe he would lose. The dynamics are just night-and-day different from 2014. The national political environment is different and Wicker is a much better candidate than Cochran. A second loss means McDaniel is no longer a “martyr” but just someone who can’t get elected to anything more than a state Senate seat. If he thinks trying to be the king is something he can’t do, perhaps he wants to be the kingmaker. And for someone who talks about liberty and free markets, it seems he spends all of his days dreaming about another government job. Alternatively, he could be attempting to recruit someone else to run against Wicker or prop up a slate of candidates in 2019 for state races, and using a super PAC he controls with $50K in Mercer money to sweeten the proposition.
No matter what, 2018 and 2019 will be about is good as it’s ever been to watch politics in Mississippi. Y’all Politics has big changes coming soon and we will have a front row seat to all of it.