Update: Antonio Delgado defeated John Faso by 2.2 percentage points in the Nov. 6 general election.
A Green Party candidate polling at 1 percent just got a boost from Republicans in a tightly contested race for New York’s 19th Congressional District.
An Austin-based super PAC called Fight for Tomorrow that has been funded by Republican politicians and donors has spent nearly $100,000 of “dark money” on digital ads, mailers and phone calls supporting Greenfield in recent days, according to the latest Federal Election Committee records.
Headlining the race are Democrat Antonio Delgado and Republican Rep. John Faso. The race is extremely close, with election forecasting website FiveThirtyEight predicting Delgado winning by less than two percentage points in the Hudson Valley district that Cook Political Report rated a toss-up.
In such a close race, this much spending for the Green Party candidate has the potential to strip away enough Delgado supporters to put Faso in the win column.
The most recent donations that Fight for Tomorrow has reported receiving came in February: $50,000 from finance executive and major Republican donor Howard Cox, the brother of New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox—who donated $2,700 to Faso’s campaign this year—and $20,000 from the campaign of Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling, chair of the House Finance Committee. In past cycles the PAC has received donations from prominent Republican donors including Uline founder Richard Uihlein and Lucas Oil founder Forrest Lucas.
The super PAC—which has Matt Mackowiak, president of Potomac Strategy Group and a former GOP congressional staffer, as treasurer—spent most of that money backing Texas GOP House candidate Bunni Pounds, who lost her primary.
As of Sept. 30, the PAC reported no further donations and only $420 in its bank account. But on Oct. 31, the PAC paid for nearly $49,000 worth of mailers supporting Greenfield. On Nov. 5, the day before the general election, it spent $50,000 on phone calls, digital ads, and “PAC management” benefiting Greenfield. Because the PAC files FEC reports on a quarterly basis, and the donation came after the previous reporting period, the public won’t know the identity of the donors who financed these expenditures until weeks or months after the election.
Mackowiak told Sludge, “Texans are not funding this independent expenditure, which is being conducted within the limits of federal law. Our disclosures will be filed on time and our donors will be in those filings. Everything we are communicating comes directly from the candidates.”
A spokesperson for Hensarling told Sludge that the campaign had “no involvement whatsoever with the race in New York. All activity was focused on the Texas congressional race.”
“For your next Congressman…Don’t vote for a moderate,” reads the mailer, which criticizes Delgado and praises Greenfield’s support for Medicare for All, abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and an anti-fossil fuels bill.
Greenfield issued a statement about the expenditures on his website Tuesday, saying that he is an “unwitting, unwilling ‘beneficiary” of the spending. “I denounce both the message and the messengers. I am as much a victim of this dirty trick as the candidate it purports to undermine,” Greenfield added.
The Green Party candidate told Sludge that the super PAC didn’t send the mailer to all voters in the district, or even all registered Democrats. “It was very narrowly targeted to habitually voting Dems, the one group of people I never talk to…What appears to have worked is they are distracting people on very last day before the election and on Election Day itself, people who would most likely be working the phones and driving people to the polls, a couple hundred of them have been spending time on email and phone [on this issue].” Greenfield said he’s gotten a significant amount of hate mail and angry calls in the last few days.
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Greenfield acknowledged that if he were not running in the race, some of his voters could peel off and vote for a Democrat, but he claimed that an equal number would vote for a Republican and many would stay home and abstain from voting.
Greenfield claimed that he is “more anti-Trump than anyone [voters in the district] has ever met.” Regarding the outcome of this election, he said, “I’d be less disappointed if Delgado wins, because I won’t pretend I’m not aware that having a vote that can interrupt Trump appropriations bills in the House is to some degree an asset.” But Greenfield criticized Delgado for not supporting Medicare for All and for “denying the timeline” of climate change’s effects on the planet. “Green Party interventions are necessary in the electoral arena,” he said.
Fight for Tomorrow’s spending pales in comparison to the deluge of outside money that has been spent on the race. Independent groups have spent over $13.7 million, while Delgado and Faso have combined to spend nearly $10.4 million from their campaign coffers, according to a ProPublica analysis.
Delgado’s campaign fundraising ($7.2 million) more than doubles that of Faso ($3.2 million), but outside spending for Faso ($7.1 million) outpaced spending backing Delgado ($6 million), a common dynamic in recent general elections. Greenfield hasn’t officially reported receiving any campaign donations or spending any money.
Faso, a member of the House’s Agriculture, Budget, and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, has received the most campaign cash ($292,000) from individuals and PACs in the securities and investment industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The New York Republican Party and Faso, Delgado and Hensarling campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
This story was updated to include a quote from a Hensarling spokesperson.