Backed by Murdoch and Koch, Pennsylvania Senate GOP campaigns spend over $55 million on primary ads

Dr. Mehmet Oz attends The 2022 Champions Of Jewish Values Gala at Carnegie Hall on January 20, 2022 in New York City.

Alexi Rosenfeld | Getty Images

The Pennsylvania Senate Republican primary on Tuesday could be one of the most expensive races in the 2022 election cycle, with candidates and political action committees spending more than $55 million on television and radio ads, according to ad tracker Medium Buying.

Data shows that the campaigns of former Bridgewater Associates CEO Dave McCormick and veteran physician Dr. Mehmet Oz spent more than $20 million, combined, on attack ads and other advertising. Honor Pennsylvania, a super PAC backing McCormick, has spent just over $17 million for its candidate, while the pro-Oz American Leadership Action PAC has invested over $3 million in the race. Oz, McCormick and their allied super PACs have combined to raise over $50 million, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Super PACs can accept and spend unlimited amounts of money backing a single candidate or issue so long as the funds aren’t directly controlled by the candidate.

Some of Wall Street’s billionaires have donated big money toward backing either McCormick or Oz, including Ken Griffin, the CEO of Chicago-based investment firm Citadel, and Nelson Peltz, the co-founder of investment firm Trian Partners.

Representatives for McCormick and Oz did not respond to requests for comment before publication.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dave McCormick speaks at a campaign event at Leddy’s Pub on May 12, 2022 in Harleysville, Pennsylvania.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Despite all that money, Kathy Barnette, a conservative political commentator running for the same Senate seat, has surged in recent polls to nearly tie Oz and McCormick. All three are among the candidates vying for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat that is being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

A Fox News poll of Pennsylvania Republican primary voters conducted May 3-7 shows Barnette with a 19% approval rating, just three points behind Oz, who leads that survey with 22% support. Her campaign has raised over $1.7 million, including over $180,000 in April, mainly from small-dollar donors, records show. The campaign has spent over $197,000 on ads throughout the entire election, according to AdImpact, which also tracks campaign spending.

That surge by Barnette has led to outside groups backing Oz and McCormick to run anti-Barnette spots in the final days of the election, Medium Buying said.

The stretch of ads during the final weeks of the election have been funded in part by a wide array of business leaders and special interests.

News Corp Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch donated $200,000 in April to the pro-McCormick group Honor Pennsylvania, according to FEC records. After raising over $2.8 million that month, the organization has gone on air to take aim at Barnette. A representative for News Corp did not respond to requests for comment.

News Corp owns newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. Murdoch is also the chairman of Fox Corp., the controlling company of Fox News. Sean Hannity, a network anchor and ally of Trump’s, supported Oz’s candidacy. Laura Ingraham, a fellow conservative network host, called Trump’s endorsement of Oz a “mistake.”

Oz’s campaign saw a $5,800 donation from Julia Koch last month, the widow of the late billionaire David Koch. Julia Koch’s website says she’s on the board of the massive conglomerate Koch Industries, a company her husband ran with his brother Charles Koch. Julia Koch declined to comment, but a person familiar with the contribution said it was tied to her longtime friendship with Oz and his wife, Lisa.

McCormick’s campaign, meanwhile, saw donations from more Wall Street titans during the final weeks of the election, including $5,800 from Howard Lutnick, the chairman and CEO of financial advisory firm Cantor Fitzgerald, and $2,900 from Marc Rowan, the CEO of investment firm Apollo Global.

Representatives for Rowan and Lutnick did not respond to requests for comment.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Rupert Murdoch’s name.


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