Stealthy super PAC strikes in Mo. special election

Thanks to late entry, conservative group won't disclose donors before voters hit polls

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 Updated:

A newly formed super PAC has invested more than $12,000 into 11th-hour efforts to turn out the vote for Republican House candidate Jason Smith in Missouri, federal records show.

But voters in the Show-Me State's 8th Congressional District won’t know the source of the money behind the pro-Smith messages until long after the polls close in Tuesday's special election.

That's because the Conservative StrikeForce Super PAC, which registered with the Federal Election Commission in March, didn't spend money until last week — well after the final pre-election reporting deadline. The groups isn't required to publicly disclose any of its donors until July 4, when post-election reports must be submitted to the agency.

The Conservative StrikeForce Super PAC spent about $10,000 on Thursday toward a tele-town hall event and telephone calls designed to get voters to the polls, according to a report filed Friday with the FEC. The group, whose address is a mailbox at a UPS store in northern Virginia, also reported spending about $2,000 for robocalls to be placed today and Tuesday.

When the Center for Public Integrity contacted Scott B. Mackenzie, the group’s treasurer, he declined to comment, saying, “I really don’t have anything to say to you. Nice talking with you.” Other Conservative StrikeForce Super PAC representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Conservative StrikeForce also operates a traditional political action committee, which raised $6 million during the last election cycle, according to FEC records. Ahead of the 2012 election, it directly contributed more than $100,000 to GOP politicians and spent nearly $500,000 on messages that advocated for Republican candidates, including Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and Allen West, R-Fla.

On its website, the Conservative StrikeForce PAC says it was launched by a “small group of devoted conservatives who wanted a way to effectively support candidates by motivating like-minded voters at the grassroots level.”

The super PAC’s expenditures in Missouri rank it as the largest independent spender in the race where Smith, a state representative, is a heavy favorite in the GOP-leaning district, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal records. His opponent is Democrat Steve Hodges, a fellow state representative and self-described "conservative Democrat" who supports gun rights and abortion restrictions.

Three other PACs have made modest independent expenditures on Smith’s behalf: the National Right to Life Victory Fund, the Missouri Farm Bureau PAC (Southeast District) and the Conservative Campaign Committee — an organization formerly known as the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama. The three groups together have reported making roughly $8,000 in expenditures in the race.

Tuesday’s special election follows the resignation of Republican Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, who left Congress in February to head the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which was her No. 1 campaign contributor during her career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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