The new super PAC supporting Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III in his bid to unseat incumbent Senator Edward J. Markey has reserved more than $800,000 in additional airtime ahead of the Sept. 1 primary, bringing the potential TV ad buy to almost $2.5 million, according to a Democratic media buyer familiar with Massachusetts campaigns.
The increased ad spending by the New Leadership PAC, a super PAC formed in mid-July by supporters of Kennedy, is the latest sign of the growing intensity in the race as it enters its final weeks. Super PACs can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of a candidate, but are not allowed to coordinate with a campaign or candidate.
Federal filings show that as of the beginning of August, the super PAC had raised $545,000, much of it from several labor groups. The PAC appears to have chosen to file monthly reports, which means the names of any donors who give money after Aug. 1 will not be disclosed to the public until after voting ends Sept. 1, said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, a campaign watchdog group.
Mindy Myers, the veteran Democratic operative who organized the PAC, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. A former executive director of the Senate Democrat’s campaign arm, Myers was a pivotal player in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s successful 2012 Senate campaign and went on to serve as her chief of staff, before moving on to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
One possible source the PAC could tap for additional money: Kennedy’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy II, who still had more than $2.8 million in his own campaign account, leftover from when he served as a congressman from Massachusetts from 1987 to 1999.
It is entirely legal for the father to transfer some or all of that money into the super PAC backing the son, said Common Cause’s Ryan. The only constraint on a candidate’s campaign funds is that he or she cannot pocket the money or otherwise convert it for personal use. “Beyond that, they can do just about anything with it.”
Multiple calls and e-mails to a spokesman for the elder Kennedy seeking comment were not returned.
The Globe previously reported that Kennedy family members, including his twin brother Matt, have been making calls to potential donors for the New Leadership Fund.
Federal filings show several individuals have made sizable donations to the pro-Kennedy PAC.
Orin Kramer, a hedge fund manager and longtime Democratic bundler, and Peter Palandjian, chief executive of Intercontinental Real Estate Corp. in Boston, both gave $25,000 to the PAC, according to federal filings. David Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More, and Malcolm Wiener, a retired hedge fund manager, each gave the PAC $10,000.
The biggest checks were written by several labor groups. IBEW Local 103 gave $150,000 from its political action committee to the New Leadership Fund, the largest single donation the PAC reported.
“IBEW Local 103 was proud to be the first labor union to endorse Joe Kennedy III for US Senate on the same day Kennedy announced his campaign in 2019. Joe Kennedy III has proven throughout his entire career, and especially in the United States House of Representatives, to be a strong, proactive voice and champion for working families,” said Lou Antonellis, business manager for the union, which has about 10,000 members in Massachusetts.
Antonellis said the union’s members “had originally not been considering this form of participation in the US Senate race, but when Ed Markey refused to sign the People’s Pledge, they felt there was no choice but to help level the playing field for Joe.”
Kennedy spent much of the past year calling on Markey to sign a so-called People’s Pledge to limit outside spending in the race, and asked Markey “for the last time” to agree to the limits in late June. Despite supporting the pledge in the past, Markey refused to sign on to the agreement in the primary, proposing a watered-down alternative that would allow progressive groups with positive messages to spend in the race.
Kennedy rejected that as a loophole that would render the pledge moot.
The New Leadership Fund also received donations from the Laborers’ International Union of North America, or LiUNA; the United Brotherhood of Carpenters; and the Working for Working Americans, a Las Vegas-based super PAC funded by the carpenters’ union. All three gave $100,000 each. In addition, the National Association of Government Employees gave $25,000.
The surge of pro-Kennedy super PAC spending comes after two different outside groups have spent money to support Markey. United for Massachusetts, a new super PAC formed by environmental activists, announced in July it would spend $900,000 on a digital and TV ad campaign, while Environment Massachusetts announced a $200,000 ad campaign for Markey in June, purchased through the organization’s national super PAC.
Markey now is using the entrance of the new pro-Kennedy super PAC to fund-raise for his campaign, sending an e-mail to supporters Wednesday that called the group’s ad spending a sign that “Kennedy and his allies are desperate” and asking supporters to chip in a few dollars “to help us fight back.”
“We cannot let this outside spending go unanswered,” the e-mail said.
The primary is Sept. 1, but voting by mail has already begun. It’s unclear who has the edge in the race. One recent poll found Markey slightly ahead of Kennedy, but still within the poll’s margin of error.