Political leanings: Conservative/Republican
Spending target: Unknown
The group says its purpose is to “protect and expand the Republican Senate Majority.” Its president and CEO is Steven Law, who served as McConnell’s chief of staff from 1991 to 1997. Law also serves as the president and CEO of American Crossroads, another Republican super PAC. From 1998 to 2000, Law served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
The super PAC finds itself at odds this election cycle with former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who has declared “war against a GOP establishment.” Bannon has promised to run primary challengers against numerous Republican senators — which Law says will hurt the party’s chances of maintaining control of the Senate. The Republicans currently control 51 seats.
“Viable candidates who embrace Steve Bannon are going to have a problem when they have to face … the voters next fall,” Law told NPR last October, citing Bannon’s “toxic views and his alt-right philosophy.” Since leaving the White House, Bannon has returned to the conservative website Breitbart as executive chairman.
The Senate Leadership Fund spent a little more than $114 million in the 2016 campaign cycle, including about $86 million on so-called independent expenditures — a term the Federal Election Commission uses for advertising that expressly advocates for the election or defeat of a federal candidate.
Two of its largest donors have been the Karl Rove-affiliated One Nation group and Las Vegas-based billionaire Sheldon Adelson. One Nation gave $21.7 million to the GOP group in the 2016 cycle, while Adelson and his wife, Miriam, combined to give $35 million. Other significant donors included hedge fund manager Paul Singer and private equity manager Stephen Schwarzman.
As a super PAC, the group can accept unlimited contributions, but it must disclose its donors and cannot coordinate with campaign committees or campaigns on its independent expenditures.
In 2016, the group spent the majority of its money attacking Democratic Senate candidates in the general election. It spent more than $82 million on just six races, opposing Democrats Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Jason Kander of Missouri, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Patrick Murphy of Florida and Deborah Ross of North Carolina.
In the 2018 campaign cycle, the group notably spent $8 million in the December 2017 special Senate election in Alabama. Luther Strange had been appointed by then-Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions when Sessions became U.S. attorney general on Feb. 9, 2017. The Senate Leadership Fund supported Sen. Luther Strange, but he was defeated in the Republican primary by Bannon-endorsed candidate Roy Moore. After the primary, the group endorsed Moore, but did not spend any money supporting him in the Dec. 12 general election, an election Moore would lose to Democrat Doug Jones.
The group also has spent money opposing vulnerable Democratic incumbents — including Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — and opposing Bannon-backed Arizona GOP primary candidate Kelli Ward. Additionally, the group has released several statements directly attacking Bannon himself.