Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s New PAC Is Already Raising Big Money

The New York congresswoman is funding candidates herself, instead of routing it through the Democratic Party’s campaign arm.

New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s new political action committee raised over $69,000 on Saturday, its first day of public fundraising, showcasing her influence amid a feud with senior House Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, which shared in the proceeds from email and Twitter fundraising appeals for the PAC, also raked in about $100,000 on Saturday according to official data that Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign shared with HuffPost.

On its own, the PAC, Courage to Change, received over 4,600 donations, as of late Saturday night, in amounts that averaged under $15.

“It’s a very exciting launch,” Ocasio-Cortez campaign spokesman Corbin Trent said. “When I see so many people stand up and say they are ready to change not just D.C., but the country, it fills me with hope.”

Ocasio-Cortez launched Courage to Change to support both progressive incumbent Democrats and primary challengers whose positions are close to her own. (She has thus far endorsed progressives taking on conservative Democratic Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas and Dan Lipinski of Illinois.)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is building an independent political operation capable of competing with the Democratic Party establishment.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is building an independent political operation capable of competing with the Democratic Party establishment.

In two fundraising emails and a tweet, Ocasio-Cortez and her campaign framed the PAC explicitly as an alternative to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is House Democrats’ official campaign fundraising arm.

“We’re paving a different path,” her campaign wrote in the first fundraising email. “The DCCC has been an entrenched tool in a system that blocks working-class candidates from running for office, and protects out of touch incumbents.”

Although she is a fundraising powerhouse, Ocasio-Cortez has refused to pay $250,000 in dues that the DCCC asks of members of the House Democratic Caucus over a two-year period. In the 2020 election, the DCCC plans to use those funds to protect the Democratic majority in the House and pick up Republican-held seats.

And on Friday, several of her Democratic colleagues, including Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York, ripped her abstention from the process in a story on Fox News’ website. (Meeks succeeded former Rep. Joe Crowley, whom Ocasio-Cortez ousted, as head of the Queens County Democratic Party and supported a candidate running against the one Ocasio-Cortez backed for Queens district attorney.)

Ocasio-Cortez defended the decision ― as she has done in the past ― on the grounds that she has raised $300,000 for incumbent members directly, half of them in swing seats, and that she takes issue with the DCCC’s policy of blacklisting consultants and other groups that work with primary challengers.

For Ocasio-Cortez, who got to the House through a successful primary run against an incumbent, the fight has a personal quality.

“I don’t see the sense in giving a quarter-million dollars to an organization that has clearly told people like me that we’re not welcome,” she told Fox News.

Ocasio-Cortez is taking steps to mount an independent political operation capable of rivaling the establishment party organs with which she has jousted. The mere creation of a PAC to support other candidates ― an entity commonly known as a “leadership PAC” ― is typically the type of endeavor limited to members of party leadership or other seasoned members of Congress.

The PAC expands her reach in more tangible ways as well. A PAC allows her to contribute a larger figure to candidates than she otherwise would be able to give. Candidates can give only up to $2,000 a year from their own campaign to another candidate per election cycle, but PACs can contribute up to $5,000 per election cycle. Since the primary and the general elections are considered separate cycles, she can transfer $10,000 to a candidate from the start of a primary to the close of a general election.

The legal structure of a PAC also allows her political operation to coordinate directly with a campaign for whatever purposes it wishes.

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