A state political action committee created last month by a Wisconsin political operative has received more than $885,000 from out-of-state super PACs to help state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his bid against incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann.
The Invest in Mississippi PAC was created in July by Thomas Datwyler of Wisconsin, who had been listed as a campaign treasurer and consultant by the McDaniel campaign. The PAC had failed to file a campaign finance report with the Mississippi secretary of state’s office by Tuesday’s deadline, but filed one Wednesday afternoon.
Invest in Mississippi has been running hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads, mainly attacking Hosemann, and appears to have spent more on the race than McDaniel’s campaign has over the last month.
Invest reported the donations it received included:
American Jobs and Growth PAC, Washington, D.C. — $200,000
Defend US PAC, Washington, D.C. — $110,000
Fund for a Working Congress, Annapolis, Maryland — $150,000
Save Our Constitution PAC, Cincinnati, Ohio — $425,000
The donors appear to be dark-money super PACs, which have been pumping millions of unsourced dollars into campaigns across the country. Fund for a Working Congress helped pump millions into an Oklahoma congressional race last year, outspending the candidates themselves. Save Our Constitution PAC is reported to be backed by Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein.
McDaniel had created his own PAC that received $475,000 in dark money from an out of state group and then funneled funds to his campaign. But his campaign and PAC returned the money, and he shut the PAC down, after Hosemann complained to the attorney general that the donations violated state law.
McDaniel did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday about his campaign finances or the new PAC. Datwyler also did not respond to a request for comment.
McDaniel has declined to say what interest out-of-state dark money groups have in Mississippi’s lieutenant governor’s race or his campaign or why they would pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the fray.
The Invest PAC reported it spent more than $440,000 during July, most of that appearing to be media buys.
McDaniel’s campaign, which has struggled to raise money from Mississippi donors, reported it raised only $167,000 for the same period, and spent $288,000.
A state PAC aiming ads against McDaniel, True Conservatives Mississippi PAC, also reported its campaign finances. It reported raising $272,000 and spending $259,000 for the month. The PAC’s largest donations were $100,000 from Friends of Mississippi Hospitals and $75,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee Mississippi PAC in Washington, D.C.
Hosemann has complaints with the state attorney general’s office alleging McDaniel and his PAC have violated state campaign finance and reporting laws. Mississippi has weak campaign finance and ethics laws, and nearly nonexistent enforcement or investigation of violations.