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Super PAC with Southwestern Pennsylvania office redefining role of outside spending | TribLIVE.com
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Super PAC with Southwestern Pennsylvania office redefining role of outside spending

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, May 17, 2018 5:54 p.m
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Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
U.S. Reps. Keith Rothfus, foreground, and Bill Shuster, who is the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, hold a press conference at the Emsworth Locks and Dams to discuss the importance of water infrastructure and the status of the Upper Ohio River Navigation project on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.

A Republican super PAC’s office in Southwestern Pennsylvania is part of a vast field operation that is redefining the role of deep-pocketed outside groups in elections, according to a Thursday report in POLITICO.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, which announced it would open an office to support third-term Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, has collected $71 million and opened 34 offices around the country with 4,000 student volunteers, according to the report .

The fund is a super PAC that can raise unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and individuals and then spend unlimited amounts promoting or opposing political candidates as long as it doesn’t contribute or deal directly with candidates’ campaigns.

Corry Bliss, the group’s executive director, told POLITICO the group is trying to move beyond “cookie-cutter ads” by using volunteers to knock on voters’ doors months before elections.

The article summarizes CLF’s strategy: “While the group’s new in-house research team digs for negative information on Democrats, its data department polls key swing districts to identify issues that high-propensity swing voters care about most. Then the group sends its volunteers to talk to those voters in person, armed with literature and talking points touting what GOP incumbents have done to advance those causes.”

The group opened two offices in the area before the March 13 special election between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb. The group spent $450,000 supporting Saccone, who lost the election, and about $3 million attacking Lamb, who won.

Lamb, of Mt. Lebanon, now faces Rothfus in the newly drawn 17th Congressional District, which includes Beaver County along with parts of Allegheny and Butler counties.

The CLF office is in Allegheny County. A spokesman for the group didn’t respond to a question in an email about which town in the 17th District the office is in. The POLITICO piece says the group chooses field office locations by looking for large numbers of high schools within a 25-mile radius to recruit volunteers at career fairs and in civics classes.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include that the CLF office is in Allegheny County.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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