US Sen. Richard Burr to get $8.1 million TV ad boost from super PAC

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr

Lagging his Democratic opponent in recent campaign fundraising, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr will make up the difference with help from a national super PAC dedicated to protecting the Senate’s Republican majority.

The Senate Leadership Fund announced Thursday that it has reserved $8.1 million in TV ads supporting Burr. The super PAC is connected to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the spending is a clear sign that Republicans view Democrat Deborah Ross’ campaign as a serious threat.

When the Ross campaign began last year, Burr’s seat was not considered to be a vulnerable one for Republicans, but polls now show Burr’s lead narrowing to a few percentage points.

The ad buy was first reported by Roll Call and was confirmed by Senate Leadership Fund spokesman Ian Prior. Prior told The News & Observer in an email that he doesn’t “yet have details on what the ads will be/how many/etc.”

The PAC has already been criticizing Ross’ record as a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union before she joined the state House, saying she would “would be better off running for office in California, not North Carolina.” According to Federal Elections Commission filings, the group had $18.6 million on hand at the end of July.

Unlike Burr’s campaign committee, the Senate Leadership Fund can accept unlimited contributions from wealthy donors. Donors this election cycle who contributed more than $1 million include New York hedge fund manager Paul Singer, Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, Houston Texans football team owner Bob McNair, Little Rock, Ark., investment banker Warren Stephens and the oil company Chevron.

The PAC’s ad buy exceeds the amount Ross raised in the last available campaign finance report.

Ross raised $2.1 million in the second quarter. Burr raised about $1.6 million. It was the second quarter in a row where Ross out-raised Burr. Since the campaign began, Ross has raised about $4 million. Burr has raised $8.8 million in his bid for a third term.

Ross’ campaign criticized the Senate Leadership Fund’s ad buy in a news release Thursday.

“It’s no surprise that, like a typical Washington politician, he’s turning to the same big money donors he’s put first all along,” spokesman Cole Leiter said. “But North Carolina voters won’t be fooled – they know it’s time for a change, and no amount of special interest dark money can bail Richard Burr out.”