Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is funding ads aimed at disrupting North Carolina's Democratic Senate primary, AP reports.

Why it matters: The seat currently held by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is a primary target for Democrats in 2020 as they aim to flip the Senate. The McConnell-backed ads are aimed to support state Sen. Erica Smith at the expense of former state Sen Cal Cunningham, who has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

  • Cunningham's campaign has also greatly outraised Smith's thus far.

The state of play: An FEC filing this week shows the Faith and Power PAC, which ran ads that backed Smith and argued Cunningham was too moderate on gun control and LGBT issues, received all of its $2.95 million from the Senate Leadership Fund.

  • Before the filing confirmed the source of Faith and Power's cash, North Carolina Democrats already believed that Republicans had backed the ads to drive Cunningham to spend more money.
  • A spokesperson for the Tillis campaign told AP that the senator knew nothing about Faith and Power except what was said in news reports.

The other side: Cunningham created his own ad accusing Republicans of "meddling" in the primary even before the revelation in the FEC filing.

Worth noting: North Carolina Senate races have a history of getting expensive. More than $121 million was spent during the 2014 Senate race between Kay Hagan and Tillis — mostly by outside groups.

Go deeper: These Senate seats are up for election in 2020

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