An unusual super PAC, formed in 2014 to promote candidates who favor campaign finance reform, is rebooting for next year’s congressional elections, starting with an effort on behalf of congressional candidate and Maryland state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery).
“Embrace the Irony” was the motto of Mayday, a super PAC founded by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig and political consultant Mark McKinnon with the goal of eliminating super PACs, the independent committees that they and other critics contend have corrupted American politics.
Super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited amounts of cash from unions, corporations and individuals to support candidates or attack their opponents as long as they don’t coordinate directly with campaigns.
Mayday spent more than $10 million on the 2014 midterm elections but had little to show for it. Just one of the candidates it backed won last year: Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a 20-year incumbent who didn’t need Mayday’s help.
Now, the organization is attempting to hit the reset button, with new leadership and more modest goals. Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham law professor who made an unexpectedly strong showing in her 2014 Democratic primary challenge to New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, has replaced Lessig as chief executive officer.
The group shows just $370,000 in cash on hand, according to the latest federal reports. It is beginning its 2016 push by supporting Raskin, an outspoken critic of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, which held that the First Amendment guaranteed the right of corporations, unions and other groups to spend unlimited sums on elections.
At an announcement in Takoma Park scheduled for this afternoon, Teachout is expected to announce that Mayday will raise $100,000 for Raskin, who is running for the Democratic nomination to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen in Congress, and will recruit 250 volunteers for his race against six other opponents.
“Raskin is a national advocate for citizen-funded elections to combat the influence of big money in politics,” said a Mayday announcement promoting the event. “He refused all corporate contributions as a State Senator and is now refusing all donations from Big Gas, Big Coal, and Big Oil.”
Raskin raised $375,000 for his campaign in the third quarter of 2015, behind only former television anchor and Marriott executive Kathleen Matthews, who raised $564,220.
Raskin’s other opponents in the April Democratic primary are former State Department official Joel Rubin, education nonprofit leader David Anderson, Dels. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutierrez and former Obama administration official Will Jawando. Former Democrat Liz Matory is running as an independent.