Most political action committees (PACs) give money to candidates. Ohio Gov. Richard F. Celeste (D) has a different approach: His PAC gives people.
Celeste founded Participation 2000 to train young people as campaign workers and "contribute" them to progressive Democratic campaigns nationwide. Campaigns report the help as an in-kind contribution of $1,000.
"We hear so much about campaign finance reform, but of 4,500 PACs, we are the only one who has taken a no-money pledge," said Christopher Celeste, Participation 2000 director and the governor's son. "Our goal is to involve young people in politics while supporting progressive candidates."
The PAC recruits from college campuses and national youth associations. This year it accepted 32 American, four Hungarian and three Romanian participants. They are working in campaigns ranging from state legislator to Senate in 20 states.
The training program in Columbus, Ohio, is free. Participants learn fundamentals of campaign organizing from political professionals.
Participants work for the campaigns from Aug. 1 through the Nov. 6 election in "fairly high-level positions," Celeste said. In some smaller races, Celeste said, "our staff person is the only full-time campaign staff."
The PAC mainly supports challengers and candidates running for open seats rather than incumbents. Celeste said the focus is on "non-traditional" candidates: women, minorities and young candidates. Half the staff this year is working for female candidates, including gubernatorial candidates Dianne Feinstein in California, Ann Richards in Texas and Barbara Roberts in Oregon.
Unlike other PACs, where contributors "expect a quid pro quo," Celeste said, "this PAC is good for the system."