A small group of free-spending wildcard donors, including investment tycoons Peter Ackerman and John Burbank, are rallying to support Greg Orman’s independent Senate campaign in Kansas. Michael Bloomberg and a Jonathan Soros-backed group are also considering entering the campaign on Orman’s behalf, POLITICO has learned.
It’s a dramatic twist for a candidate who staunchly opposes big money in politics but has been badly outspent on the airwaves after surging to a surprise lead over Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. The Roberts campaign and allied conservative groups including the Ending Spending Action Fund, the Koch-brothers-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund, the National Rifle Association and the National Republican Senatorial Committee combined to reserve $3.3 million in airtime between Labor Day and Election Day.
Orman’s campaign, by contrast, reserved $1.3 million for television and radio ads during that time period, according to ad tracking sources.
It appeared as if Orman might lack a natural big money constituency. The Democratic Party and its allied super PACs have mostly sat on the sidelines of the Kansas race, apparently unsure whether it’s worth investing in an independent candidate who has criticized both parties, and is not guaranteed to caucus with Democrats. That created the prospect that Orman, a wealthy private equity investor who has decried the role of big money in politics, might be dramatically outspent down the stretch.
Into the breach this week stepped a mysterious super PAC called the Committee to Elect an Independent Senate, which appears to have been created specifically to support Orman. It quickly reserved $220,000 in airtime, and began airing an ad praising Orman as a “bold, independent problem-solver,” who is “a businessman, not a career politician,” while blasting Roberts as “part of the Washington partisan mess.”
Felicia Knight, a spokeswoman for the super PAC, said it hasn’t determined its total budget because it’s still raising money. But she said it has received donations from Ackerman and Burbank, a pair who in 2012 combined to spend more than $1 million through the nonprofit group Americans Elect supporting Maine Independent Angus King’s successful Senate campaign.