Private Equity-Funded Super PAC Buys Attack Ads Against Progressive Challenger

A new super PAC formed to push back against progressive challengers plans to spend $800,000 on TV ads opposing Jamie McLeod-Skinner through the May 17 Oregon primary election.

Private Equity-Funded Super PAC Buys Attack Ads Against Progressive Challenger
Oregon congressional candidate Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner

A new super PAC funded by private equity investors is making a major play in the Democratic primary in Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District, opposing progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner as she campaigns against conservative incumbent Kurt Schrader. 

Mainstream Democrats, a super PAC formed in February, is out with a new ad on TV attacking McLeod-Skinner. It plans to spend nearly $800,000 on running the ad through the district’s May 17 primary election, according to a media monitoring alert viewed by Sludge. 

The spot is Mainstream Democrats PAC’s first TV ad of this election cycle—and the expenditure is by far its largest so far, taking up the bulk of what the group had raised as of April 13, the date of its most recent disclosure of receipts. The super PAC received at least $1 million in March and April from nine large donors, led by a $500,000 contribution from billionaire Democratic megadonor Reid Hoffman, a tech executive and partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Greylock. Its cash on hand as of April 13 was just over $935,000, according to FEC records.

Mainstream Democrats PAC operates as a sibling of a group with deep ties to pro-Israel lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), which has hopped into Democratic primaries to oppose progressives. DMFI’s funding has come from corporate executives and financiers like Stacy Schusterman, the billionaire chairman of Oklahoma-based oil and gas company Samson Energy, and Amnon Rodan, the former chair of the multi-level marketing company Rodan + Fields.

The group’s spending so far has been aimed at races where progressive Democratic candidates are mounting primary challenges to incumbents. So far this cycle, its sole spending in elections has been more than $150,000 in three outlays on direct mail opposing progressive U.S. House candidate Nina Turner in Ohio, according to FEC disclosures

The new ad is the first spot in the contest to criticize McLeod-Skinner, highlighting her 2018 general election loss to incumbent Rep. Greg Walden in Oregon’s Second Congressional District—now represented by Republican Cliff Bentz—and touting Schrader as the better candidate to beat whoever becomes the Republican nominee. 

Mainstream Democrats’ website says it is working against “far-left organizations” attempting to take over the party that make it “more difficult for Democrats to win the swing seats that make a majority and weakens the party’s ability to govern.”

The Oregon 5th district was recently redrawn to include more areas in rural central Oregon, but one analysis found that the district Biden won by 10 points in 2020 would have been won by nine points in its new incarnation. The Cook Political Report categorizes it as one of 10 “lean Democratic” districts, meaning it will likely be competitive in the general election but favors the Democratic nominee, compared with 18 Democratic-held districts that it considers toss-ups. Elections analyst Nathan L. Gonzales at Roll Call rates the district as “likely Democratic.”