A group of the Republican Party’s most prominent megadonors are pouring millions of dollars into a handful of primaries in deep-red congressional districts — part of a bid to influence the makeup of the House GOP conference after a difficult and conflict-ridden year. 

With the political world’s attention focused on the presidential election, two super PACs financed by a small group of donors quietly spent over $6 million against five Republicans running for House seats in Super Tuesday primaries, according to Federal Election Commission records. 

The super PACs, Conservatives for American Excellence and America Leads Action, have targeted candidates who are either endorsed by the political arm of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus or would align with the caucus, which has been a thorn in GOP leadership’s side since it launched in 2015. The groups have also targeted one candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump: Brandon Gill, who is running in Texas’ open 26th District.

The Freedom Caucus has been in conflict with House Republican leadership since it formed, including helping force the resignation of then-Speaker John Boehner in 2015 — but those conflicts have been especially acute in the last year-plus, with the GOP majority at only a few seats. 

Most of the eight Republicans who moved to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year were Freedom Caucus members, and members of the group have opposed deals struck by new Speaker Mike Johnson in attempts to keep the government open this year.

If Republicans keep the House in the November election, it’s possible the next majority could be similarly slim. And the new super PACs appear to be trying to make sure the Freedom Caucus’ ability to tank legislation or threaten speakers doesn’t grow in the next Congress.

“These races really determine the heart and soul of the caucus,” said David McIntosh, president of the conservative Club for Growth, whose PAC has endorsed Gill and North Carolina Republican Bo Hines, another target of the new super PACs ahead of Tuesday’s primaries.

“It’s unfortunate that the establishment is pushing moderates who support reckless spending rather than focusing their funds on maintaining and increasing the Republican majority, and we believe that Republican primary voters agree with us,” McIntosh added.  

The funders backing the new super PACs also typically donate to leadership-aligned super PACs and party committees. Some have also supported Trump’s primary rivals. But while most of these donors have given to groups tied to McCarthy, a source close to the former speaker said he is not involved in this effort. 

Conservatives for American Excellence, for instance, received $3 million from Citadel CEO Ken Griffin in January, according to FEC filings. The hedge fund executive has been a major backer of Nikki Haley’s super PAC in the presidential race, giving $5 million to that group. Griffin has also been a big donor to Congressional Leadership Fund, the main House GOP-aligned super PAC, in recent years, giving $27 million in the last election cycle. 

“My political participation has always been driven by my patriotism and my love of America,” Griffin said in a statement to NBC News. “I support solutions-oriented candidates who share my commitment to individual rights and freedom, economic policies that encourage prosperity and upward mobility, access to a high-quality education for all children, safety in our communities, and a strong national defense.

“We are facing serious issues as a country and we need effective leaders in Washington,” he continued.

Warren Stephens, the CEO of Stephens Inc., donated $1 million in January to Conservatives for American Excellence and has previously given over $2 million to the pro-Haley PAC, according to FEC records. 

Stephens did not return a request for comment. 

America Leads Action has been largely financed by two megadonors: SnapAV founder Jay Faison and Rob Walton, heir to the Walmart fortune, who also donated to super PACs supporting a handful of former Trump presidential rivals in 2023.

A representative for Walton did not return a request for comment. Faison could not be reached for comment. 

Both groups have targeted Gill, spending a combined $2.1 million against him in the 26th District race in North Texas to replace retiring GOP Rep. Michael Burgess. Gill’s father-in-law, Dinesh D’Souza, directed the election conspiracy theory documentary “2000 Mules” about the 2020 election.

In addition to Trump’s endorsement, Gill also has the backing of the Freedom Caucus’ political arm, the House Freedom Fund, and Club for Growth Action, which has launched ads to boost his campaign. 

Both groups have also spent $1.3 million against Republican Mark Harris, who is running in the open 8th District in North Carolina. Harris is also endorsed by the House Freedom Fund. He previously ran for Congress in 2018, but the results of that race were tossed out over an investigation into illegal collection of absentee ballots allegedly organized by a Harris consultant, who was charged by the state but died before he faced trial.

Conservatives for American Excellence has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars targeting three other Republicans: Hines in North Carolina’s open 6th District, Rep. Barry Moore in Alabama’s 1st District and John O’Shea in Texas’ open 12th District. 

Hines has been endorsed by Club for Growth Action, while Trump has endorsed another candidate in the race: Addison McDowell. Hines, who had Trump’s backing in his unsuccessful 2022 run in a more competitive district, is still casting himself as a Trump-aligned candidate, saying in one ad that he would be “Trump’s No. 1 ally” in Congress.

But Conservatives for American Excellence has tried to paint Hines as insufficiently conservative, launching one ad citing a 2017 interview in which Hines said he’s “not a social conservative” and featuring a narrator saying, “President Trump needs strong conservatives to take the fight to the swamp. That’s why we can’t trust Bo Hines.”

In Alabama, Moore has the backing of the House Freedom Fund in his race against fellow GOP Rep. Jerry Carl, after they were drawn into the same district as part of court-mandated redistricting in the state.

Conservatives for American Excellence has spent $642,000 against Moore so far, per FEC filings. The group has also tried to appeal to pro-Trump voters, with one ad featuring a Trump supporter who says Moore “voted against finishing Trump’s wall,” citing Moore’s vote against a sweeping government funding measure last year.  

And in Texas’ 12th District, the group has spent nearly $600,000 to bolster Texas state Rep. Craig Goldman against businessman John O’Shea in the race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Kay Granger. O’Shea told the Texas Tribune he would consider joining the Freedom Caucus if elected.

While Trump has not weighed in on the race, Trump-backed state Attorney General Ken Paxton has endorsed O’Shea. 

It’s possible these fights could extend past Tuesday: Texas, North Carolina and Alabama all have runoff provisions if the leading primary candidates do not win certain percentages of the vote.

And more battles like this could continue throughout the next six months of congressional primaries across the country.

Conservatives for American Excellence was among a group of PACs pitched to donors that are part of the American Opportunity Alliance during a private January retreat in Florida, according to an attendee who declined to be named in order to speak freely.  

AOA is a group of GOP donors led in part by longtime GOP financier Paul Singer. While Griffin was reportedly at the retreat, his donation to the super PAC arrived before the group made its presentation to donors at the gathering, according to FEC records.

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