Common Sense Principles—a non-profit group who opposed a handful of Democratic state Senate candidates this year with dozens of hard-hitting, negative mailers—spent about $1 million on its efforts, according to lobbying filings.
The Virginia-based group, a 501c4 whose financial backers and key operators are unknown, spent a total of $950,000 on direct mailers, Internet advertising and mailing lists since August, according to the group’s filings with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.
An additional $100,000 was paid to Advancing Strategies, a firm headed by Chris LaCivita, a lobbyist with ties to many Republican politicians and causes.
(A major tip of the hat to the Times Union’s Jimmy Vielkind, who spotted the filings.)
Common Sense Principles gained attention during the 2012 campaign cycle when it began sending out mailers targeting key Democrats vying for Senate seats—including now Sens. George Latimer, D-Rye, and Ted O’Brien, D-Irondequoit. (Here’s a sample.)
But the group, which hadn’t returned phone calls from a number of reporters during the campaign season, apparently chose not to file any campaign expenses. Instead, it filed them as lobbying expenses, which allowed the group to make filings without disclosing its donors while skirting the state’s campaign-finance laws. (In Vielkind’s piece, the head of the Senate Democrats’ campaign efforts said Common Sense’s filings “mocked the spirit of our campaign finance laws.”)
Senate Republicans have denied any connection to the Common Sense Principles group. The filing shows at least one connection to New York Republicans—about $16,000 in payments to the firm of former state GOP Chairman Bill Powers for a pair of mailing lists.