Politics

Why Did an Indiana Super PAC Endorse Alabama’s Roy Moore?

Locally, Indiana First PAC endorsed Jim Banks, plans to play in open 4th and 6th Districts

Indiana First PAC has endorsed Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, above, but has no plans to play in Indiana’s Senate primary. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Indiana First PAC earned attention this week for endorsing Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

But what is an Indiana-based super PAC — which has yet to file with the Federal Election Commission — doing in another state’s Senate race when it doesn’t even plan to play in its own?

Indiana First expects to spend a minimum of $40,000 on radio ads and canvassing in Alabama, said chairman Caleb C. Shumaker, also known as Caleb Christopher. (“I use the two names kind of off and on,” he said Tuesday night.)

Shumaker sees the Alabama race as an important opportunity to help an anti-abortion candidate. He has “no interest” in playing in the Indiana Senate race, which he said will be an expensive contest with all the candidates likely having enough financial support. 

But Indiana First will be active in House races in the Hoosier State. The group, which launched in early November and has a board of three, is hoping to spend at least $150,000 in the state in 2018. It plans to play in the open 4th and 6th Districts and is supporting 3rd District Rep. Jim Banks —the only Indiana incumbent the super PAC is backing.

Indiana First has raised about $10,000 for the Alabama Senate race so far from grass-roots donors and a few business owners, Shumaker said. A fundraiser to support Moore is planned in Indiana soon.

“If I thought the allegations were true, he would not have my endorsement,” Shumaker said of Moore when asked about the women who have accused the former judge of sexual misconduct. He opposes Democratic candidate Doug Jones’ views on abortion.

“The nation needs to return a little bit to morality,” Shumaker said, explaining why he formed Indiana First. The goal, he said, is to not just support “pro-Trump candidates,” but “pro-Trump agenda candidates.”

“The America first agenda is so much bigger than one person,” he added, declining to say whether he’s had any contact with the White House, other outside groups supportive of President Donald Trump, or former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. 

A controversial past

Shumaker is the former chairman of the National Youth Front, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as the youth chapter of the white nationalist American Freedom Party. In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday night, Shumaker denied ever espousing white nationalist views. 

A YouTube user with the name Caleb Shumaker did the voice-over and scripting for a 2014 video for the National Youth Front entitled “Declaration of War.”

“We watch as our cities burn, the result of a nation ethnically fractured by a failed utopian social experiment and massive immigration and multiculturalism,” the narrator says in the video. The clip goes on to bemoan “our parents” who “worship at the altar of diversity.”

Indiana First’s Shumaker denied to NBC News that he was the same Shumaker whose voice is heard in the video.

“I have a biracial family. I’m married to a Hispanic woman,” he told Roll Call on Wednesday when asked about his involvement with the National Youth Front. “They went racist. I left. I condemn all forms of racism, including white nationalism.”

The American Freedom Party sent out a letter Oct. 30, signed by Chairman William Johnson, saying Shumaker had never been a member of the party and had left the National Youth Front because of “our controversial views on race and support of primarily European-American views and concerns.”

Reached by phone in Los Angeles, Johnson said he had become aware of the letter only on Wednesday, but he has authorized the organization to send out letters under his name. Calling himself a “white nationalist” who wasn’t personally opposed to Shumaker’s interracial marriage, Johnson suggested Shumaker left after other members of the National Youth Front found out about his marriage.

The Moore campaign touted Indiana First’s endorsement Tuesday. Johnson said his own contribution to the Moore campaign was returned to him.

Indiana races

Shumaker has been involved in campaigns before. He said he helped Texas Sen. Ted Cruz during Indiana’s presidential primary. Before forming Indiana First earlier this year, he also worked for former state Rep. Mike Braun’s bid for the GOP nomination in Indiana’s Senate race.

“The Braun campaign briefly contracted with Mr. Shumaker to collect signatures for ballot access,” Braun campaign adviser Barney Keller said in a statement Wednesday.

“Once we became aware of Mr. Shumaker’s past comments and associations, his contract was terminated immediately. Mike Braun strongly and unequivocally condemns Mr. Shumaker’s disgusting beliefs and believes they have no place in American politics,” Keller said.

Braun, a businessman with the ability to self-fund his campaign, is one of three major contenders for the GOP nod to take on Democrat Joe Donnelly, along with Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer. Indiana First has no plans to wade into that race.

Besides Banks, who was elected to the House with 70 percent of the vote last fall, Shumaker does not foresee backing any other incumbent in the state in 2018. 

Banks, whom Shukmaker called a “conservative rock star,” is not familiar with Indiana First.

“The Congressman has never met with this organization and didn’t seek its endorsement,” a Banks spokesman said in a statement Wednesday.

“We are trying to learn more about who they are. Congressman Banks believes that regardless of our political differences, Hoosiers must reject hatred and racism,” the spokesman added.

Asked why Indiana First isn’t backing other conservative incumbents, such as freshman Rep. Trey Hollingsworth who’s voted with Trump as much as Banks, according to CQ’s Vote Watch, Shumaker said the group is confident Hollingsworth is safe in his 9th District seat. Hollingsworth is on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s target list

Shumaker noted that a Democrat in the 3rd District came close to raising as much money as Banks did in the third quarter. Businesswoman Courtney Tritch raised $76,000 compared to Banks’ $100,000 during the three-month period ending Sept. 30. Banks ended the quarter with nearly $200,000 more in cash on hand.

Indiana First’s support of Banks does not mean it regards him as vulnerable in 2018, Shumaker said.

For the open 4th District seat, which Rokita is vacating, Indiana First is interested in Diego Morales, who worked as an aide to Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor.

In the open 6th District that Messer is leaving behind, the group has so far met with only Stephen MacKenzie, who ran in 2016 for the GOP nod in the 5th District against Rep. Susan W. Brooks.

The vice president’s bother, Greg Pence, is also running in the 6th District.

“We’ve not had an opportunity to speak with Greg Pence, so until I meet with him personally, I can’t give an honest opinion there,” Shumaker said.

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