Former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo filled key roles in the administration of President Donald Trump before forming a political action committee to support conservative candidates in 2022 and potentially lay the foundation for a presidential campaign in 2024.
Pompeo, who served Trump as CIA director and secretary of state, is viewed as a potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination. He’s chairman of Champion American Values PAC, or CAVPAC. It was formed one year ago and raised $3.2 million by the end of 2021.
The PAC spent more than $2 million, including contributions to a handful of Republicans who triggered ire of the former president by either refusing to challenge outcome of the 2020 election or supporting President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill in 2021.
Patrick Miller, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, said Pompeo seemed ambitious and the PAC would help him stay politically relevant during a year in which he won’t be on a ballot.
It’s not clear Pompeo would seek the GOP nomination for president, Miller said, but Trump has found ways to keep potential candidates on edge. Anybody thinking about a Republican presidential bid must walk a line between not alienating Trump or his hardcore supporters and participating in the normal process of spreading endorsements and checks among candidates in the party, Miller said.
“Trump is really attacking what seems like a lot of Republicans right now over certain votes, positions or things that they did,” Miller said. “It seems like a lot of the establishment types are not falling lockstep in behind Trump, but are going out of their way to praise him and not be mean about what he is doing.”
CAVPAC spends $2.1M
Federal Election Commission reports show CAVPAC spent $2.2 million last year to begin building political alliances that would be useful for a candidate for president.
Recipients of the PACs funding included U.S. Sen. James Lankford, a conservative Oklahoma Republican who was prepared to object to counting swing states’ electoral votes as part of an attempt by Trump loyalists to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Lankford, who received $2,500 from CAVPAC in October, was on the Senate floor Jan. 6 outlining reasons to oppose certification of President Joe Biden’s victory when a mob breached the U.S. Capitol. Lankford subsequently voted to certify the 2020 election.
Pompeo’s PAC donated $2,500 to at least three Republican congressmen — Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Don Bacon of Nebraska and Andrew Garbarino of New York — among the 13 GOP members voting in support of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
Trump said GOP lawmakers joining Democrats to vote for the bill ought to be ashamed, adding: “Very sad that the RINOs in the House and Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory.”
In terms of CAVPAC, Pompeo said the immediate objective was to help Republicans claim majorities in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate while also expand reach of conservatives in state legislatures and governorships.
“I think 2022 is going to be a really good year all across the country for CAVPAC-endorsed candidates. We are going to win races from school board to the United States Senate,” Pompeo said in an social media message to supporters.
The big question
Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political science professor, said Trump’s hints about campaigning for president a third time were creating campaign gridlock. Candidates such as Pompeo are likely to hold back until Trump’s intent becomes evident, he said.
“Pompeo is an attractive GOP presidential candidate,” Beatty said. “In a normal American political era, he’d be running for president full out right now.”
Michael Smith, a member of the political science faculty at Emporia State University, said Pompeo would have a mountain to climb before reaching a level where he would be competitive nationally.
Pompeo was elected to the U.S. House four times from the Wichita region, but his popularity in Kansas has been questioned because he never held statewide political office before joining the Trump administration in Washington, D.C. Trump remains popular with his base in Kansas, Smith said, but there’s no consensus on who the state’s conservatives would make the second choice for president.
“I wouldn’t call him first tier,” Smith said. “The big question for me is: Now that Trump is out of office, is it Trump or something he represents?”
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