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John Thune

Thune world adds some outside muscle

New: Johnny DeStefano, a longtime Republican operator, is running an outside group linked to Senate Minority Whip John Thune’s bid for Senate GOP leader.

The group is called New Heights for America. And the way outside non-profit groups are structured, they can’t have any official link to Thune or his staff. But there are a few things here worth considering.

Also joining DeStefano in running this non-profit is Paula Dukes. Dukes is a longtime GOP fundraiser who has been around Thune’s orbit for 13 years.

The group can raise unlimited, undisclosed sums of money from large donors. This will help the South Dakota Republican build a base of large-dollar donors who would otherwise be limited on what they can give to Thune-affiliated hard-dollar groups.

DeStefano is a long-time operative with a deep history in GOP politics. He worked for former Speaker John Boehner. DeStefano later served in the Trump White House as director of the Office of Public Liaison and counselor to the president. DeStefano wielded power for then-President Donald Trump, overseeing the appointment of scores of people to government posts.

Having a C4 could be very beneficial for both Thune and Republicans in the 2024 campaign season. The group’s connection to Thune will help the South Dakota Republican build chits as he ramps up his run for Senate GOP leader. And like other similar groups, this C4 will be able to spend money on issue ads, as well as funneling money to super PACs and other entities.

Thune, of course, is in a marathon race to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the next Congress. So far, it’s a head-to-head race against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). Other Republicans, such as Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.) and NRSC Chair Steve Daines, may jump in at some point.

— Jake Sherman

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