A political action committee that spent more than $4 million on television advertising against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Rep. Mo Brooks earlier this year was funded by the Republican Brooks hopes to replace and the super PAC most closely tied to Senate Republican leaders who do not want to see Brooks join their ranks.
Reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission late Thursday will show Alabama’s Future, a super PAC that spent $3.6 million attacking Brooks, was almost entirely funded by Shelby and the Senate Leadership Fund, the top super PAC dedicated to electing Republican candidates.
Alabama’s Future also spent $357,000 on advertisements meant to bolster Katie Britt, Shelby’s former chief of staff and one of the leading contenders in the race to replace the longtime senator.
Shelby and the Senate Leadership Fund contributed about $2 million each to the super PAC that aired the anti-Brooks ads.
In an interview, Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, said the group had set out to ensure that someone other than Brooks won the Republican nomination.
“At the end of the day, we assume that Alabama comes in a Republican direction. Brooks has historically been a very weak candidate. He’s a bad fundraiser, prone to gaffes,” Law said. “But the thing that was of greatest concern was just a treasure trove of anti-Trump comments that our polling shows was toxic with Republican voters.”
Law, McConnell’s former chief of staff in the Senate, said his group was concerned that Trump would turn on Brooks — which happened in March, when Trump yanked support from Brooks, his longtime backer who appeared at the rally prior to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“It was certainly not a concern for Trump’s feelings, but it was certainly a concern that Trump might turn on Brooks if he became the nominee,” Law said.
Three Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination: Will Boyd, a pastor; Brandon Dean, a former mayor of Brighton; and Lanny Jackson, a building supervisor who attracted 41 votes when he ran for mayor of Birmingham in 2017.
Law said national Republicans would have been equally satisfied with Britt or Mike Durant, a businessman and retired Army officer who has largely funded his own campaign and who briefly vaulted into the lead earlier this year.
Brooks, an arch-conservative member of Congress who has been a thorn in the side of House Republican leadership, had pledged to oppose McConnell’s bid to remain as Senate Republican leader. That fact did not go overlooked among Alabama political observers.
“I’m not surprised they still don’t want a rabble-rouser in the Senate and would rather have a member focused on governing and fixing our country’s problems,” said Brent Buchanan, a Republican pollster in Alabama.
Will Hampson, a Brooks campaign spokesman, took aim at the minority leader and the candidate who benefitted from the ad spending.
“Katie Britt is Mitch McConnell’s candidate. He’s supporting her and funding every lying ad against Mo Brooks. Like in 2017, McConnell is trying to buy a RINO a Senate seat in Alabama. He hates Trump and America First candidates like Mo,” Hampson said in an email. “Britt is bought and paid for by the Swamp. This is why President Trump will never support Katie Britt — she’s Mitch McConnell’s candidate. Anyone who claims to be MAGA cannot support or vote for Britt. Period.”
In their latest poll, Cygnal, Buchanan’s firm, found Britt leading the GOP field with 32 percent of the vote. Brooks and Durant were vying for a second slot in the runoff; Brooks won 23 percent of the vote among Alabama Republicans, and Durant hovered just behind at 21 percent.
In March, before Trump yanked his endorsement, Durant had led with 35 percent, Britt trailed at 28 percent and Brooks lagging at 16 percent.
“When this race began, Brooks was the prohibitive favorite to win the primary. Britt was far behind. Very few people gave her much of a chance of surpassing Brooks,” Law said.
Britt, a first-time candidate herself, has proven an adept fundraiser. She has used the intervening months to shift her focus to Durant, another first-time contender.
“Britt’s been prosecuting an effort against Durant that has clearly had some impact. So we have seen Durant fall, and Brooks has probably been the beneficiary of some fo that shakeup in the three-way primary,” Law said. “Brooks is still in pretty bad shape in terms of his image.”
If no candidate wins more than half the vote in the May 24 primary, the top-two vote getters would advance to a June 21 runoff. If Britt and Brooks score those top two positions, Trump would likely weigh in on Britt’s behalf, a brief and rare alignment of the political interests of a twice-impeached former president and the once-and-potentially-future Senate Majority Leader who otherwise almost never see eye to eye.