The Campaign for Primary Accountability is a Super PAC formed in September 2011 in order to provide voters with more information regarding candidates in primary elections. The organization works to "put the voters back in control of the process," and believes that to do that, voters "must challenge long-term incumbents and hold them accountable for their deeds."
The goal of the organization listed on its official website reads:
"Our goal is to bring true competition to our electoral process, to give voters real information about their choices, and to restore fair, not fixed, elections."
The Campaign for Primary Accountability was featured in a front-page story in the Washington Post on March 8, 2012. The story quotes CPA founder Leo Linbeck saying, "We’re trying to make the electoral system competitive, so that Congress will become more accountable to the voters. It’s not about policy, it’s about governance. We’re not interested in shifting power between Republicans and Democrats. We’re interested in shifting power between Congress and the people."
According to Campaign for Primary Accountability spokesman Curtis Ellis, "CPA does not fit the traditional Democrat versus Republican, liberal versus conservative paradigm. It is a trans-partisan organization that encourages greater participation in primaries by voters in both parties in order to break the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Washington."
The official website of the CPA points to polls and election results from November 2010 as the impetus for its campaign. In November 2010, the congressional approval rating was 17 percent. During the same month, 86 percent of congressional incumbents were re-elected. The CPA believes that more than 80 percent of all districts are controlled by one major party -- which would make the primary the only place to defeat an incumbent.
Don Manzullo (R): "Why would we have a system that allows people from outside the state with absolutely no connections to literally buy an election?"
Spencer Bachus (R): "Because they don’t really seem to have any logical goals and their attacks are indiscriminate, I almost have to believe it’s an ego trip. This is really tearing apart the structure of this body. It’s a bullying tactic, and it attacks experienced legislators indiscriminately."
From the media
A New York Times editorial on March 18, 2012 criticized the Campaign for Accountability, stating that the methods used "demonstrates the inherent danger in allowing big money to steer election results." The editorial acknowledged that there is an entrenchment problem in Congress, but questioned the unlimited spending of money by a small group of donors was the appropriate response. The editorial recommended promoting nonpartisan redistricting or opposing state attempts to limit voter turnout as other methods to effect change. Curtis Ellis, the CPA's press spokesperson, responded to the NYT editorial, saying, "The Campaign for Primary Accountability is using the laws that exist now to increase voter participation and redress the imbalanced access to big money that incumbents enjoy. Election reforms are certainly needed, but we cannot wait for incumbent lawmakers to ratify the reforms that will disadvantage them."
A Wall Street Journal article on March 18, 2012 highlighted the organization's impact on 2012 elections. Writers detailed the "heartburn" that is being caused to both parties.
The editorial board of the Houston Chronicle weighed in on the group on March 20, writing, "It's interesting to see big-buck donors using their wealth to undermine, rather than support, a political system where gerrymandering and uncontested incumbency seem to matter more than actual votes. After all, something is clearly wrong with the way elected officials get into office when congressional approval is 17 percent, but the rate of incumbents being re-elected is 90 percent. Linbeck's got an intriguing idea, and one we'll keep our eyes on."
The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune mentioned the group in an April 24, 2012 article about entitlement programs. The editorial's introduction read: "No, we won't be sending donations to the Campaign for Primary Accountability, the political action committee that fights the huge advantage incumbents enjoy in U.S. House and Senate races. But on Monday we gained new appreciation for anti-incumbent fever: As Democrats and Republicans in Washington perpetually trade blame for our deteriorating federal finances, Social Security has moved three years closer to emptying its trust fund."
After the 2012 elections, an article in Slate discussed the success of the organization in 2012 compared to higher-spending organizations such as those run by Karl Rove. According to the article, the Campaign for Primary Accountability "made the impact by targeting lower-impact races."
From the political parties
A Politico article on March 19, 2012 reported that the "National Republican Congressional Committee told four companies working to unseat incumbent lawmakers that it could not do business with them anymore" because the firms were working with the CPA.