Now that the news has broken (props to Lee Fang of The Intercept), it’s finally OK for me to write this. It’s been killing me for weeks, knowing that I’d never get confirmation.
A week before Super Tuesday, the big news was the formation of two SuperPACs designed to inject life into campaigns that had started to founder: PersistPAC and Kitchen Table, supporting Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar respectively. I wrote at the time about my belief that it was equivalent to forming a “Committee to Re-Elect the President”; later I shared some insights into the “Conspiracy Against Sanders“.
There was a great deal of speculation going around at the time about the source of the funds. One rumor in particular involved Republican dirty tricks; this was fueled in part by the methods and people who set up the PACs and funneled money to them. (All else aside, there were links to the old Bain Capital of Romney fame.) But even if this weren’t true, SuperPAC support served to undermine Warren’s message about the use of dark money in politics.
To be clear: Warren did nothing immoral or unethical here. It wasn’t even hypocrisy; she called for full disclosure of the identities of the donors, and she did her best to persuade her opponents to join her in a pledge to avoid Wall Street funds. But when such major players as Biden and Buttigieg refused, she was certainly within her rights to accept SuperPAC support gracefully rather than fight it in court — which is what she’d have had to do. (In truth, it’s arguably illegal for a candidate to refuse a SuperPAC; they’re legally prohibited from coordinating with them, and that definition is broadly interpreted.)
However, the perception was that Warren was just one more rich candidate getting money from The Party. Those who didn’t pay attention to her on the issues but instead only cared about image were let down by the perceived stain on her honor — which had already been damaged by her grudging endorsement of Hillary Clinton in 2016. There’s a populist anti-Establishment groundswell in this country, and she somehow managed to entirely avoid appealing to it.
Which is fine. Warren didn’t win; that’s on her. It’s arguable that Warren never had any chance to win even had the field not been so crowded; Klobuchar might have, but we’ll never know at this point. Had either stayed in the race, they’d have taken votes from Biden, increasing the likelihood of a contested convention and a brokered candidate, but that’s really the only way either one could have been a factor in the upcoming election. So in that sense, the PAC money was wasted.
A single prominent donor — Karla Juvetson, who you’ve probably never heard of before now — funded PersistPAC almost single-handed; Emily’s List also weighed in (meaning that Bloomberg helped support his opponents — ironic, that), and you might have heard of Barbara Lee, who also kicked in a fair sum. There was a statement made that, now we’ve got a couple of viable female candidates, it’s about time we have a woman president. I can’t disagree, particularly as the alternative is Biden. In the end, this will have an impact on the choice of the vice president in July — so in that sense the money had a purpose.
The one part of this that bothers me, though, is that Klobuchar likewise didn’t refuse the assistance — and yet endorsed Biden, the ultimate Old White Guy candidate. That seems a strange place to put Emily’s List money, but what the hell — I’m not a Democrat; what would I know?
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