Super PAC Targets GOP in New York


WASHINGTON—A super PAC trying to help Democrats retake the House of Representatives has launched a fundraising effort aimed at New York, where nearly a third of the congressional races are competitive.

The House Majority PAC, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations and individuals, has pulled in $1 million for its New York effort so far, a spokesman said. It hopes to raise and spend $6 million by Election Day.

Republicans are also targeting New York races with an array of fundraising groups, including super PACs. House Speaker John Boehner raised money for Republican incumbents in upstate New York earlier this month. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other nonprofits are expected to spend on House races in the state. And the National Republican Congressional Committee and a super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, are also likely to be active in races in New York.

The efforts illustrate how important New York could be for control of the House, even as it is virtually ignored this fall by the presidential campaigns. At least eight out of 27 New York races are likely to be competitive. Democrats must pick up 25 seats to win the House.

The state’s House races are competitive this year as a result of the strong performance of Republican candidates in Democratic-leaning districts in 2010 and the once-a-decade redistricting process that tilted some districts in favor of one party or the other. The House Majority PAC is taking aim at those vulnerable Republicans, who include Michael Grimm of Staten Island, Nan Hayworth of the Hudson Valley and two upstate representatives, Ann Marie Buerkle and Chris Gibson.

“The House Majority PAC plans to raise $6 million to spend on congressional races.”

“House Majority PAC is making a strong, sustained push in New York this cycle given the number of competitive congressional races and, in particular, the number of potential Democratic pickups,” said the group’s spokesman, Andy Stone.

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee dismissed the Democratic super PAC’s effort.

“All the special interest money in the world can’t hide these Democrats’ support for ruinous policies like Obamacare,” said the spokesman, Nat Sillin.

The House Majority PAC also plans to spend money defending four incumbent Democrats: Tim Bishop of eastern Long Island; Bill Owens, who represents a vast district in the state’s northern reaches; Louise Slaughter of Rochester; and Kathy Hochul of western New York.

So far, the House Majority PAC has reserved about $600,000 in fall television advertising time in Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo, according to a spokesman. It plans to reserve more soon in the districts currently represented by Ms. Hayworth and Mr. Gibson.

The group can’t coordinate with the campaigns of New York Democrats, but it is staffed by aides who have worked for the party and its elected officials. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel have raised money for it.

One of the biggest contributors to the group’s New York effort is Renaissance Technologies founder James Simons, a large donor to Democratic causes. The hedge fund was one of the first to use quantitative, computer-based models to predict market movements and trade stocks. As of July 2, he had donated $500,000 to the group, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. A spokesman for Mr. Simons didn’t respond to a request for comment.

It isn’t clear if the House Majority PAC can meet its New York fundraising goal.

Another New York effort, led by former Gov. George Pataki, has floundered. Mr. Pataki said in April that he had commitments for “multiple millions” in contributions to Tipping Point, a super PAC that would help Republican congressional candidates. He hoped to raise “in the high seven figures. If things go well, in the low eight.” But as of the group’s most recent filings with the FEC on July 16, it had raised just under $30,000—most of it through a $25,000 check from John Catsimatidis, owner of the Gristedes grocery-store chain.

A spokesman for Mr. Pataki didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday. The former governor told the New York Observer last week that he still expects to raise at least $1 million.

The efforts come as congressional campaigns begin in earnest across the country, competing for attention with presidential candidates.

Since President Barack Obama is expected to easily win New York, neither his campaign nor that of Republican Mitt Romney is planning on devoting resources to identifying and turning out voters. It is unlikely they will spend much money on advertising in the state either.

Congressional candidates in New York will have a better chance than those in, say, Ohio, to distinguish themselves.

“It’s not ‘choose between Republicans and Democrats,'” said Stu Rothenberg, who analyzes congressional campaigns. “It’s what you’ve done for the district, what you’ve done for your constituents.”