Gov. Jan Brewer let donations pile up in her political action committee for a year, until this week, when she's started unloading the $587,000 pot, hoping to make the difference for Republican candidates for Congress.
On Tuesday, Jan PAC, as the committee is called, spent $29,651 on a mailer supporting Republican Martha McSally in her race against incumbent Democrat Ron Barber in Congressional District 2. That district covers eastern portions of Tucson and Pima County as well as Cochise County
The same day, the PAC also put $35,567 into a mailer opposing Democratic candidate Ann Kirkpatrick in Congressional District 1, a vast district where she faces Republican Jonathan Paton.
She followed those moves up on Wednesday by shelling out another $99,999 on yet another mailer, this one promoting the election of current Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake to the U.S. Senate over Democrat Richard Carmona.
Asked why Brewer waited this long to spend her PAC's money, spokesman Paul Senseman said: "Her perspective is that she's engaging when it's most impactful and in the places she cares deeply about."
This week's spending flurry follows the Brewer's committee's initial foray into campaigns Oct. 12, when it spent $23,257 on a mailer opposing Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic candidate in Phoenix-area Congressional District 9.
Brewer formed the committee in October last year, and she gained greater national recognition in January after she was photographed pointing at Obama during a confrontation with him on the tarmac at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. As of Sept. 30, the PAC had taken in $586,995 but had spent none of it. Now it's spent $188,474 in 12 days.
The biggest contributor to the PAC was Tennessee businessman Willis Johnson, chairman of the board of Copart, a national chain of auto auction houses. He gave the PAC $100,000, and on top of that the company gave $10,000.
The PAC's spending in CD1 backfired right away, Kirkpatrick spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said. The campaign fired off an email Wednesday to alert supporters to Brewer's actions, and they collected $28,410 in less than six hours, nearly matching the PAC's spending, Johnson said.
"It's a waste of resources. It's energized folks on our side," she said. "All along, we knew we'd see out-of-state extremist super PACs. Now we have an in-state one to deal with."
Paton spokesman Barrett Marson said by email: "Jonathan welcomes the support of a leader like Governor Brewer. Jonathan helped pass SB 1070. Ann Kirkpatrick opposed SB 1070 and is now supported by the out-of-state extremists that boycotted Arizona."
The $35,567 Jan PAC put into CD1 is a small portion of the approximately $4 million outside groups have spent in that tightly contested race. So is the nearly $100,000 put into the Senate race, where outside groups have spent $10 million and the $29,651 in CD2, where outside groups have spent more than $1 million.
The McSally mailer focuses on the candidate's background as the first combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force, and the anti-Kirkpatrick mailer criticizes the Democrat for her record in the state Legislature. A copy of the Flake mailer was not available Wednesday.
Senseman added he expects the PAC will continue spending in races where the governor feels it's important.
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Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services contributed to this report. Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 or firstname.lastname@example.org