Pro-Cruz super PAC plays offense in Indiana

Trusted Leadership PAC has spent millions aiding senator from Texas

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Update, 8:44 p.m., May 3, 2016: Ted Cruz suspended his presidential campaign after losing to Donald Trump in the Indiana primary.

A victory in Tuesday’s Indiana primary is Sen. Ted Cruz’s strongest hope for staying alive in the race for president, and one super PAC is leading the charge to keep his campaign afloat.

Meet Trusted Leadership PAC.

The pro-Cruz super PAC is focusing on the Hoosier State, where it has spent $2.4 million in Indiana, half of the total it has reported spending to support Cruz’s candidacy so far, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

That’s translated into more than 1,800 broadcast ads, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of data from Kantar Media/CMAG.

And for good reason: Cruz lost five states last Tuesday to Republican front-runner Donald Trump. Cruz now trails Trump by more than 400 delegates, according to the Associated Press, and Indiana’s delegates could put Trump even closer to the magic number needed to clinch the Republican nomination and shut out Cruz.

Or, as the most-aired Trusted Leadership PAC ad says in a voice-over set against videos of Cruz and newly named running mate Carly Fiorina: “The time for big talk has passed.”

The ad’s sponsor

Trusted Leadership PAC was created in mid-March, when it was launched as the latest addition to a network of pro-Cruz super PACs. Each pro-Cruz super PAC in the network had been named a variant of “Keep the Promise” and is funded by a small group of rich megadonors.

One important distinction: While the Keep the Promise PACs are largely controlled and funded by individual families, Trusted Leadership PAC is actively soliciting contributions from multiple big-dollar donors.

But like the Keep the Promise PACs, the newest pro-Cruz super PAC can raise and spend in unlimited amounts, opening the door for it to rake in massive sums during the Republican primary’s waning months.

Who’s behind it?

The treasurer of Trusted Leadership PAC is Alice Hanley, according to Federal Communication Commission filings.

A former vice president of an investment bank, the Florida-based Hanley is married to oil tycoon and investor Lee Hanley, who in June contributed $5,000 to Keep the Promise I. He also contributed $15,000 to a pro-Fiorina super PAC in March 2015.

Alice Hanley donated $5,400 to Fiorina’s campaign and $2,700 to Cruz’s.

Trusted Leadership PAC is also controlled by organizers from five other pro-Cruz super PACs: four Keep the Promise groups and Stand for Truth Inc., said Kellyanne Conway, head of Keep the Promise I.

“Trusted Leadership harnesses the strength and resources of that broad support to consolidate fundraising efforts and deploy resources strategically,” Conway said in an emailed statement.

Money in

Since forming in March, Trusted Leadership PAC has brought in $4.7 million. Together, eight super PACs in the pro-Cruz constellation have raised a whopping $62.4 million through March 31, according to FEC filings.

That’s more than the super PACs supporting any other still-active Republican candidate. Groups supporting Democrat Hillary Clinton have raised $76 million to boost her presidential bid.

Trusted Leadership PAC has so far reported receiving two seven-figure donations, a $1 million contribution from businessman Richard Uihlein and another from Missouri-based Herzog Contracting Corp. The company's owner, Stan Herzog, is a major Republican donor who also gave a seven-figure contribution to a super PAC supporting former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

Herzog Contracting Corporation, Herzog Railroad Services and Stan Herzog have collectively contributed about $1.5 million to pro-Cruz super PACs. In addition, the Cruz campaign has paid Herzog Contracting Corporation $430,000 for travel expenses, as first reported by Mother Jones.

Trusted Leadership PAC also in late March received $800,000 from Keep the Promise I and $100,000 Stand for Truth.

Money out

Trusted Leadership PAC has poured roughly $4.9 million into ads, mailers and voter calls advocating for Cruz in the weeks since it was first formed, according to FEC filings.

Much of the $2.4 million it has spent in Indiana has gone into a mix of ads that take jabs at Republican opponents Trump and John Kasich, as well as positive, pro-Cruz ads.

Conservative group Club for Growth also aired ads supportive of Cruz. The two groups have been responsible for 24 percent of TV ads aired in Indiana’s Republican primary, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s analysis of data from Kantar Media/CMAG, a firm that monitors advertising on broadcast television and national — but not local — cable. The Trusted Leadership PAC spot featuring Cruz and Fiorina aired more than 1,000 times.

Trusted Leadership PAC has narrowly outspent the Cruz campaign in Indiana, according to data provided by The Tracking Firm, a nonpartisan media tracking company.

Why watch this group

Much of the recent pro-Cruz messaging has been outsourced to Trusted Leadership PAC.

In fact, no other pro-Cruz super PAC aired a single TV ad since March 15. Since then, Trusted Leadership PAC has sponsored roughly 3,200 ads, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s review of data tracked by Kantar Media/CMAG.

While the super PAC has received $900,000 from some of the Keep the Promise groups, it’s also given about $1.3 million to other ones, including Keep the Promise III and Keep the Promise PAC.

So at least for now, Trusted Leadership PAC appears to be the central node in the pro-Cruz efforts.

This story was co-published with TIME and the Texas Tribune.

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