The group says its sole purpose is to oust politicians too close to special interest money, and it calls Upton the "worst of the worst." Its backers say they recognize the irony of spending big money to get money out of politics, but they hope groups like theirs won't be necessary if they can elect enough politicians who support campaign finance reform.
Mayday PAC founder Mark McKinnon said earlier this month his group plans to "give Fred Upton the fight of his political life" and "perhaps we can be a giant killer."
That enthusiasm hasn't been shared by national Democrats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has targeted four other Michigan GOP-held seats this cycle (they've since pulled out of all four races), but has not put its weight behind Clements's campaign.
The 6th is "the most Democratic seat in Michigan that's held by a Republican," said Mark Miller, the Michigan Democratic Party's district chair. "Why the DCCC has been unwilling to invest in this district is perplexing."
The Cook Partisan Voting Index rates the district as a +1 Republican seat.
"[Clements has] raised money without a lot of institutional support from the Democratic Party," said John Curran, who managed Democrat Don Cooney's 2010 campaign against Upton. "It's always been considered this Republican bastion."¦ Our activists, donors, and candidates feel left out in the statewide and national picture."
The financial picture isn't too great for Democrats in the district, either. One national-level Democratic operative noted that while Upton still has $1.6 million in the bank, Clements has already spent almost all of the $700,000 he's raised this cycle, leaving a heavy burden on any outside group looking to make a late money surge. The operative also said the district's split-ticket voting tendencies didn't necessarily spell vulnerability for a political institution like Upton.
A source familiar with Democratic polling of the district said Upton held a substantial 54 percent-to-35 percent lead in June, before the Mayday PAC investment. Most analysts consider incumbents polling above 50 percent to be in relatively safe position.
"On both sides of the political spectrum, they put the money where they hope to have the most impact," said Victor Fitz, who chairs the Michigan GOP's efforts in the district. "If the [DCCC is] not putting it in the 6th District, you can read something from that."
Upton's campaign says they've never taken the race for granted, and the Mayday PAC money infusion doesn't change their calculus. "From Fred's perspective, there's two ways you can run—unopposed or full speed ahead," said campaign manager Tom Wilbur.
"Most of of us on the ground look at this with a smile on our face," Fitz said. "I don't see any traction in this at all. [Mayday PAC] can spend their money, but I don't think it's going to have much of an impact."