Political leanings: Republican
2020 total spending: $165.9 million
The Congressional Leadership Fund’s sole purpose is to win a 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 and is endorsed by House Republican leadership. As a super PAC, technically known as an independent-expenditure-only committee, CLF advocates the election or defeat of federal candidates without coordinating with candidates, campaigns or political parties. It can accept unlimited contributions, but it must disclose its donors.
Dan Conston serves as CLF’s president, as well as the president of its sister 501(c)(4), the American Action Network. Conston has managed communications for several successful Republican congressional campaigns and served as communications director for former Rep. Peter Roskam. He is president of the media consulting firm Conston Communications and a partner at the consulting firm GCG Solutions, both of which specialize in media production and project management.
According to OpenSecrets, the super PAC spent nearly $143 million on advertising advocating the election or defeat of specific candidates during the 2020 election cycle. It spent more than $7 million to support Republican challenger Claudia Tenney’s successful bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi in New York’s 22nd Congressional District, and more than $6 million to help Republican Troy Nehls win a seat held by retiring Republican Rep. Pete Olson in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District.
In all, the CLF spent $131 million against 68 Democratic House candidates, and 42 of the targeted candidates went on to lose their races.
CLF’s largest individual donors in 2020 were casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who died in January 2021, and his wife, Miriam. The couple — longtime Republican backers — contributed $50 million to the group, and Timothy Mellon, chairman and owner of the transportation holding company Pan Am Systems, gave $20 million.
As of July 4, CLF has raised about $151 million and spent just over $21 million, Federal Election Commission records show. In 2020, CLF raised a total of $165.7 million and spent $165.9 million. The group’s spending in 2020 had increased from 2018, when CLF raised a total of $157.8 million and spent $158.7 million.
Major donors for the 2022 campaign cycle include Kenneth C. Griffin, Citadel founder and CEO, who has donated a little more than $18.5 million, and Patrick G. Ryan, founder, chairman and CEO of the Ryan Specialty Group, who has donated just over $10 million. American Action Network, CLF’s sister 501(c)(4), has contributed nearly $20 million.
CLF released its first ads of the 2022 election cycle in early January 2021. The five-figure digital ad campaign targeted 21 Democrats who voted for Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be speaker of the House. Since then, CLF has launched a series of ads attacking Democrats on crime, cost of living and education.
FactCheck.org Undergraduate Fellow Tess Hancock contributed to this article.