Illinois: Super PAC Spent Big for Adam Kinzinger in Home Stretch

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (left) won a hotly contested primary against a fellow GOP Member on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (left) won a hotly contested primary against a fellow GOP Member on Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted March 21, 2012 at 1:50pm

Freshman Rep. Adam Kinzinger had some outside help in his victory over veteran Rep. Don Manzullo in Tuesday’s primary.

The Campaign for Primary Accountability, a super PAC, spent a whopping $222,000 on Kinzinger’s behalf late in the race. That’s more than four times as much as the $52,000 radio ad buy that YG Action Fund, a super PAC run by a former aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.), put into the race.

The six-figure sum is also more cash than the controversial, Texas-based super PAC has spent in any other race this cycle.

So what exactly does that buy in Illinois’ 16th district, a rural and exurban area west of Chicago? A lot.

The super PAC spent at least $75,000 on television ads and $18,000 on radio spots knocking Manzullo and pumping Kinzinger, according to Federal Election Commission records. Online reports show it also unloaded at least $104,700 in direct mail on the race through postcards and other pieces.

For some more perspective, look at the campaign bank accounts of both Illinois Republicans. At the end of the last reporting period on Feb. 29, Manzullo had $333,900 in the bank. Kinzinger reported a little less than that sum, $314,800, around the same time.

The Campaign for Primary Accountability targets incumbents in primaries is safe districts, regardless of party affiliation, according to spokesman Curtis Ellis. So far, the group boasts a 33 percent success rate.

The super PAC opposed Manzullo, who lost to Kinzinger by 12 points Tuesday night, and Rep. Jean Schmidt (R), who lost her primary in Ohio in early March. But it failed to oust four incumbents in primaries that it targeted: Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.).

Nonetheless, Ellis called the group’s efforts a success.

“For the first time in many years, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rep. Don Manzullo had to actually campaign rather than taking another term for granted as they have in the past,” Ellis said in a statement about the Tuesday primaries. “In the Second Congressional District, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be more responsive to his district for having had a competitive primary. He can thank the Campaign for Primary Accountability for making him a better member of Congress.”

Ellis probably shouldn’t wait by the phone for Jackson’s thank-you call, but it’s clear his group’s spending makes a difference in some races. Incumbents with primary challengers should watch out.