WASHINGTON -- Rep. Peter King set up a new leadership political action committee on Friday to pay for his travels around the country and to support Republican candidates who oppose the GOP's tea party wing.
King (R-Seaford) said the American Leadership Now PAC will be based in Boston because it's close to New Hampshire, where he has been testing the waters for a possible presidential campaign. However, he insisted the PAC was not a step toward a run for president.
"The main reason I've set up this leadership PAC is to cover the expenses of traveling," King said in an interview Friday. It's also to help "candidates I want to support, or who support my views."
King said he plans to officially announce the formation of the leadership PAC on Monday.
King inadvertently revealed its existence in an email Friday listing his schedule Monday for his fourth trip to New Hampshire, an early primary state, since he announced he's considering a run for the White House. The email says: "Paid for by American Leadership Now PAC."
The PAC is the latest step in King's fight for the soul of the Republican Party, which he said he wants to be conservative but also politically pragmatic in its strategy.
Since the summer, King has publicly criticized tea party GOP favorites such as Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who urged the House GOP to shut down the government in its unsuccessful bid to defund the Affordable Care Act.
The PAC was named American Leadership Now, King said, to highlight his criticism of the leadership styles of politicians he opposes -- "people like Rand Paul, who in effect say . . . [the United States] is too dominant around the world, and the president, who basically has an apologetic style of leadership."
King said he has raised $20,000 so far for the PAC, which includes his own $5,000 donation from his campaign committee.
Many lawmakers have leadership PACs, including both of New York's Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).
Politicians use the PACs to gain clout among their colleagues; boost their chances of getting committee leadership posts; lay the groundwork for higher office; or to travel around the country, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money.