Political leanings: Republican
Spending target: $100 million
The Congressional Leadership Fund’s sole purpose is to help maintain and expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The super PAC was formed in October 2011 as the conservative counter to the liberal House Majority PAC. As an independent-expenditure-only committee, CLF advocates for the election or defeat of federal candidates without coordinating with candidates, campaigns or political parties.
The group released its first ads of the 2018 cycle in March 2017, targeting Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff in his race against Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. The seat was vacant after Tom Price was appointed President Trump’s first health and human services secretary. The first ad questioned Ossoff’s national security credentials and showed scenes of the candidate playing drinking games in college.
CLF’s chairman is Fred Malek, the founder of Thayer Lodging, a hotel real estate investment company, who is also involved in Republican political organizations. Malek founded and serves as chairman of the American Action Forum, a conservative 501(c)(3), and founded its sister 501(c)(4), American Action Network. He also advised four Republican presidents.
CLF’s board also includes Mason Fink, a leader of the Right to Rise super PAC that supported Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential election and the national finance director for Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, and Jeff Larson, a former Republican National Committee staffer and the CEO of the 2016 Republican National Convention.
The group raised almost $51.1 million in 2016 and spent more than $39 million opposing 30 Democratic House candidates. Twenty-six of the targeted candidates went on to lose their races. CLF spent $3.8 million trying to defeat Rick Nolan of Minnesota but failed. The group successfully spent $3.7 million to help defeat Zephyr Teachout in New York.
CLF’s largest individual donors in 2016 were casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. The couple — longtime Republican backers — contributed $20 million to the group. Steven Schwarzman, the CEO and chairman of The Blackstone Group, gave $1.7 million.
The group had collected $101 million in the 2017-2018 election cycle as of mid-October, according to its filings with the Federal Election Commission. Steven A. Cohen, of Point72 Asset Management, and Paul L. Foster, of Western Refining Company, each gave $1 million. Hushang Ansary, of Stewart & Stevenson, gave $1.5 million. The Chevron Corporation donated $1.9 million. American Action Network also has contributed more than $25 million. In May, Adelson reportedly agreed to give $30 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund after meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
So far, CFL is the biggest outside spender in the 2018 campaign cycle. It has spent more than $77 million on TV ads and other forms of political communication — known as independent expenditures — that expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a federal candidate. It is active in 24 states — much of it in California, where it has spent nearly $14 million.