Mystery money in Missouri election not local

Conservative StrikeForce only used out-of-state cash to influence congressional race

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What’s the secret a top-spending super PAC kept from Missouri voters before a special congressional election last month?

None of its bankrollers are from the Show-Me State.

New federal documents show the Conservative StrikeForce super PAC, which lists its address as a mailbox at a UPS store in northern Virginia, hauled in $14,000 from eight non-Missouri residents and a Florida-based contracting company through June of this year.

The group had spent more than $12,000 in an 11th-hour effort to help elect Republican Jason Smith in Missouri’s 8th Congressional District special election.

But because Conservative StrikeForce did not make its first expenditure in the race until days before the election, it wasn’t required by the Federal Election Commission to publicly disclose its donors until after voters already cast their ballots.

Although $12,000 isn’t a huge expenditure in super PAC terms — some groups spent into the millions of dollars during the 2012 election cycle — Conservative StrikeForce spent more money on the Missouri special election than any other independent group, as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported. Conservative StrikeForce launched its super PAC arm in March.

Smith, for his part, went on to handedly defeat Democratic state Rep. Steve Hodges in the June 4 election, winning 67 percent of the vote.

Most of the Conservative StrikeForce’s eight individual donors have established political contribution histories, with seven donating to Republican candidates and groups during the 2012 election, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

The group’s biggest donor is Aspen, Colo., resident Tatnall Hillman, who gave $5,000 to Conservative StrikeForce. Hillman donated more than $175,000 to dozens of Republican candidates and conservative outside groups throughout the 2012 campaign.

Hillman, a retiree, gave $70,000 to the conservative super PAC Club for Growth for Action and $1,000 to the Susan B. Anthony List, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that supports candidates who oppose abortion. He also contributed $5,000 to a super PAC called Coalition of Americans for Political Equality PAC, a group some Republicans have called deceptive because of its fundraising practices.

Two of Conservative StrikeForce’s donors also cut checks for FreedomWorks for America, the super PAC arm of a nonprofit group formed by conservative benefactor David Koch that advocates for limited government.

Jerome Powell, a retiree from Kinston, Mass., gave $4,000 to Conservative StrikeForce in April following a $9,800 contribution to FreedomWorks for America last fall. San Diego retiree Edward Wong, who donated $725 to Conservative StrikeForce, also gave $9,000 to the FreedomWorks super PAC in 2012.

The lone corporation to contribute to the Conservative StrikeForce was W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractor Inc., which gave $500 in May. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company’s employees gave $56,950 to Republican candidates in 2012, while the corporation itself dished out more than $55,000 to various political committees.

The Conservative StrikeForce’s traditional political action committee, which may make direct donations to political campaigns, has also served as a boon to conservative causes. The group contributed $127,000 to GOP candidates in 2012 and made nearly $50,000 worth of independent expenditures benefiting Republicans. 

Conservative StrikeForce officials could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

According to its website, the Conservative StrikeForce’s goal “is to organize, motivate and mobilize the conservative voters of America to help elect and support candidates who share our same goals and values.”

Following the Missouri campaign, the Conservative StrikeForce super PAC has less than $2,000 cash on hand, federal records show.