A new “super PAC” co-founded by Gov. Rick Perry’s onetime chief of staff has begun running campaign ads in Iowa and South Carolina, marking the first advertising by a major super PAC in the Republican presidential primary and serving as a reminder of the Texas governor’s formidable financial resources despite his recent slide in the polls.
The group, Make Us Great Again, is spending roughly $200,000 in each state over the next 10 days. While that amount is enough for a large initial advertising buy, it is sure to be only the first trickle in the total spent by candidate-focused super PACs in the coming months.
Make Us Great Again initially planned to raise and spend as much as $55 million through next April, though an official of the group later said that information was outdated, and it was not clear how much the group had raised. Some rival campaigns question whether the pro-Perry group can ever come close to reaching its initial target.
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A competing super PAC, Restore Our Future, which supports Mitt Romney and is operated by his former aides, reported raising $12 million in the first half of the year. Most of these groups are not required to disclose their contributions or donors from the second half of this year until Jan. 31.
There had been expectations that super PACS would finance attack ads; historically, outside groups have run some of the harshest ads against candidates, like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked the Vietnam War record of Senator John Kerry. But the two 30-second pro-Perry spots are designed instead to build up the candidate with a narrative of his life and his accomplishments as Texas governor, echoing his message on the campaign trail.
Both advertisements, for example, mention that Mr. Perry was the son of a tenant farmer and that he served in the Air Force, and they repeat Mr. Perry’s campaign message that his policies have created jobs in Texas.
The group’s advertising expenditure comes one week after Mr. Perry’s campaign began running its first television advertising in Iowa. A person close to Make Us Great Again declined to discuss future strategy, including whether the group might run attack ads against Mr. Romney or other Republican rivals, but said the scope of the group’s efforts was expected to be comparable to the pro-Romney group.
Super PACs were made possible by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which allowed unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals through these organizations, as long as the groups do not coordinate their spending with the candidates. Most of the top Republican presidential contenders, and President Obama, now have the support of super PACs established by donors and former aides, and they are expected to play a major role in the 2012 campaign.
The pro-Perry ads feature recent video of the governor shaking hands and speaking on the campaign trail. Jason Miller, a spokesman for Make Us Great Again, said the video was taken during campaign events that had been announced and open to the public in both Iowa and South Carolina.
The ads “are designed to promote Governor Perry’s excellent record on helping to create jobs and grow the economy,” Mr. Miller said.
The group was founded two weeks before Mr. Perry officially declared his candidacy in August by supporters and donors including Mike Toomey, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to the Texas governor. Its executive director, Scott Rials, formerly worked for the campaign of Newt Gingrich, with the two men now at the top of the Perry campaign, Dave Carney and Rob Johnson.