The GOP’s top prospect to run against Democrat Claire McCaskill in Missouri has something in common with late-night comedian Stephen Colbert: his money man.
Salvatore Purpura, who helped set up Colbert’s super political action committee, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” is identified as the treasurer on committee paperwork Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley filed on Monday with the Federal Election Committee.
The paperwork creates the Josh Hawley Senate Exploratory Committee, which Hawley can use to raise funds for a possible challenge to McCaskill. Hawley, who took office as attorney general in January, has yet to formally declare his candidacy for Senate, but Missouri Republican donors and politicians have been urging him to run for months.
Purpura declined to comment for this article, and Hawley’s team did not immediately respond to a reporter’s query.
Purpura has worked for many prominent Republican candidates, including presidential candidates George W. Bush, John McCain, Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry.
Purpura helped set up Colbert’s PAC at the request of the Campaign Legal Center’s Trevor Potter, who was assisting Colbert for a segment about Super PACs on his TV show, the Colbert Report, in 2011. Colbert, who now hosts The Late Show, used the PAC as a running gag to educate viewers about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. That ruling allowed corporations — including nonprofits — and unions to spend unlimited sums on efforts to elect or defeat certain candidates.
A little more than a month after Colbert formed his PAC, Perry announced he was running for president and Purpura resigned from Colbert’s PAC to avoid any potential conflict of interest.
“Rick Perry is taking sloppy seconds on my treasurer,” Colbert joked on his show at the time.
Citizens United, the conservative nonprofit that fought successfully in court to lift restrictions on political spending, endorsed Hawley for attorney general last year.
“Hawley and Citizens United have something in common,” Citizens United said in a USA Today editorial last year. “We’ve both successfully fought government overreach at the U.S. Supreme Court. Citizens United beat back unconstitutional restrictions on free speech in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and Hawley served as co-counsel in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby fighting against Obamacare’s unconstitutional contraceptive mandate.”