Political leanings: Conservative/Republican
2020 total spending: $476 million
The group says its purpose is “to build a Republican Senate majority.” Its president is Steven Law, who served as McConnell’s chief of staff from 1991 to 1997. Law also serves as the president and CEO of both American Crossroads, a Republican super PAC, and One Nation, which is registered with the IRS as a nonprofit. From 1998 to 2000, Law served as executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
As a super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund can accept unlimited contributions, but it must disclose its donors and cannot coordinate its spending with candidate campaigns.
The Senate Leadership Fund spent about $294 million on independent expenditures during the 2020 election cycle — the most of any super PAC, according to an analysis of campaign finance data by OpenSecrets. The Federal Election Commission defines independent expenditures as spending on communications that “expressly advocate” for the election or defeat of a specific candidate.
The group directed almost a third of its independent expenditures to oppose the election of Democrat Sen. Jon Ossoff of Georgia, who won his seat in a Jan. 5 runoff election against then-Sen. David Perdue, a Republican. The Senate Leadership Fund spent more than $92 million on the Perdue-Ossoff race alone, aided by the November 2020 launch of a sister super PAC, Peachtree PAC, which focused exclusively on the two U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia. (The Democrats won both.)
The Senate Leadership Fund’s heavy spending in Georgia was bolstered by One Nation, a nonprofit that gave more than $22 million to the super PAC in advance of the Senate runoffs in Georgia, according to the PAC’s FEC filings.
As a 501(c)(4), One Nation doesn’t have to disclose its donors, which has given rise to the term “dark money.” According to its tax filings, the group raised more than $172 million in 2020 from anonymous contributors, including one donor who gave $33 million and another who gave $13.5 million. In all, One Nation donated $77.5 million to the Senate Leadership Fund in 2020, the IRS filing shows.
In addition to the Georgia races, the Senate Leadership Fund spent large sums of money in three other states where Republican incumbents faced tough reelections. It spent about $99 million to defend seats held by Sens. Thom Tillis in North Carolina ($47 million), Joni Ernst in Iowa ($27 million) and Steve Daines in Montana ($25 million), all of whom won reelection in 2020.
In an interview with the National Journal, Law said he anticipates a successful fundraising cycle for the super PAC in 2022 as the political climate shifts in the Republican Party’s favor.
“I think the donor base was certainly deflated, probably in our instance, as much by the loss in the two runoffs [in Georgia on Jan. 5] as it was by what happened the next day,” Law told the National Journal, referring to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. “But what we’re seeing is donors recognizing how this political environment is changing so rapidly in our favor. And I expect that we’ll have really, really fruitful fundraising for the cycle.”
The Senate Leadership Fund brought in more than $475 million for the 2020 election, according to its FEC filings. The group has raised nearly $49 million ahead of the 2022 election cycle, as of Dec. 31, 2021.
The group’s top individual donor in 2020 was Ken Griffin, CEO of the hedge fund firm Citadel. He contributed $37 million. Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who died in January 2021, and his wife, Miriam, each donated $35 million. Other large donors included Stephen A. Schwarzman, CEO of the investment firm Blackstone, and Timothy Mellon, chairman of transportation company Pan Am Systems. Schwarzman donated $35 million, while Mellon gave $30 million.
FactCheck.org Undergraduate Fellow Cecelia Vieira contributed to this article.