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Centrist Dem group goes on attack against Summer Lee in Pennsylvania

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As progressive Squad member Summer Lee fights through a tough Pittsburgh-area primary, she is getting a volley of centrist super PAC opposition spending.

The Moderate PAC, which aims to support centrist Democrats, is running a television ad against Lee, one of the eight members of the Squad, in Pennsylvania’s 12th District. The spot, first shared with POLITICO, accuses Lee of having an “extreme socialist agenda.” Ty Strong, the PAC’s president, said it is supported by a $270,000 buy.

The group supports Lee’s challenger, Democratic Edgewood Borough Council Member Bhavini Patel. Its ad emphasizes Patel being a first-generation college student raised by a single mother.

This is the first outside spend of the race on the airwaves. Earlier this week, Patel started running her first television ad, which went after Lee for wanting to “dismantle” the Democratic Party and “undermine” President Joe Biden.

That ad was backed by a $60,000 buy, according to ad tracker AdImpact. Lee, who is in her first term, is not yet on air but is a strong fundraiser who will be able to. (She had about $1.2 million on hand at the end of 2023, according to her most recent campaign finance disclosures.)

Pennsylvania’s primary is on April 23. Squad members have been bracing for massive spending against them from outside groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has vowed to drop $100 million this cycle to oust progressives for their support for Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war.

Moderate PAC is a much smaller, less-established entity, formed last cycle, and its strength this year remains to be seen.

In 2022, it spent around $750,000 in support of Democratic Maine Rep. Jared Golden, and more than $15,000 backing Rep. Don Davis in North Carolina. The anti-Lee spot is Moderate PAC’s first expenditure of the cycle, Strong said.

The group reported receiving just $35 last year, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. It received $1 million in 2022 from GOP megadonor Jeff Yass. Strong said the ad is funded by donations raised recently in Lee’s district.