Alabama’s special election embodies what political analysts claim is a deepening rift between the GOP’s establishment and anti-establishment factions. Money has flooded the campaigns in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff, as former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore maintains an apparent lead over interim Sen. Luther Strange.
Strange, who was appointed by former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley to replace U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has the backing of President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
McConnell’s endorsement has stoked criticism that Strange, a former state attorney general, represents the Washington establishment while Moore, a relative outsider in Alabama politics, is seen as the more conservative, populist candidate.
Some have simplified the choice in Alabama’s closely watched primary as either a vote of confidence in Trump (Strange) or a message to the “swamp” (Moore). Reflecting the widespread attitude that much is at stake in the runoff, copious amounts of money is being tossed into the race as the Republican challengers prepare to face off next week.
Strange has raised $3.9 million and spent about $4.1 million as of Sept. 6, according to filings with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC).
The amount raised by his campaign more than doubles the $1.7 million then-Sen. Jeff Sessions received for his 2014 Senate bid. The majority of Strange’s financing has come from PACs, which make up 28.5 percent of his contributions, and large individual donors.
Moore, on the other hand, has raised money predominantly from small and large individual donors with little to no support from PACs.
According a Sept. 6 FEC filing, Moore’s campaign has raised $1.4 million and spent $1.1 million. As far as outside spending, the Solution Fund PAC has spent $54,000 in support of Moore while the Swamp Drainers Foundation and the Madison Project have spent $85,000 and $68,000 respectively in advertising and other communication materials against Strange.
Over the summer and in the past few weeks, money has flowed quickly into the race.
As of early September, the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a super PAC affiliated with McConnell, has thrown $733,000 into the race in support of Strange and another $2.5 million in attack ads against Moore. In the past two months, 18 of the last 20 videos on SLF’s YouTube channel have covered the Alabama Senate race with a pro-Strange stance, and SLF spent $383,000 on postage and printing in the last week alone in support of Strange. The super PAC also funded $1.8 million in assorted ads opposing Moore from late August to early September.
The Senate Leadership Fund is not the only outside group ramping up their spending in the Alabama race on the eve of the election. The National Rifle Association’s PAC has spent a little over $1 million, including $874,000 within the last two weeks, in support of Strange.
Despite less funding, Moore has received his fair share of contributions as well as support from outside groups within the past couple months. The $1.4 million Moore’s campaign raised as of early September is more than double what they had raised by the end of July – or a 204 percent increase in contributions within the last two months.
The pro-Trump Great American PAC has spent $20,000 on online voter contactover the last week in support for Moore. Its new offshoot, the Great American Alliance, bankrolled a bus tour for the upcoming weekend – a tour featuring former Alaska Republican Gov. Sarah Palin among others. The Alliance PAC also put money behind a series of pro-Moore television ads, two of which were uploaded to the PAC’s YouTube channel this week.
Meanwhile, former U.S. attorney and Democratic challenger Doug Jones awaits the victor of Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff. Endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden, Jones won the Democratic Party primary with relative ease.
Currently with $253,000 in his campaign coffers, Jones has been gaining a steady trickle of contributions and quietly preparing for the Dec. 12 general election.