Businessman Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign has relied on his outsider image and message to turn in a surprisingly strong performance so far. But he’s now the only Democratic presidential primary candidate embracing a favored tool of political insiders: a super PAC.
Democrats running for president this cycle have largely shunned super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums to support a candidate, provided they don’t directly coordinate with a candidate. A tool of a big-money era in politics many progressive politicians are promising to end, super PACs often collect checks worth tens of thousands of dollars or more from wealthy donors, making them potentially toxic in Democratic primaries.
The group backing Yang’s presidential bid, Math PAC, is run by Will Hailer, a Democratic operative who previously worked as a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee and as a top staffer for now-Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Hailer told Recode the group planned to spend at least $1 million to back Yang.
“Math PAC will work to ensure that [Americans] know that Andrew Yang is our best chance of defeating Donald Trump,” the group declares in the mission statement on its website. “We conduct targeted advertising, plan events, and launch outreach initiatives, so Americans learn what is at stake this election cycle and into the future.”
Asked about the group earlier Wednesday, Yang downplayed his knowledge of the group but also said he hoped they would support his bid.
“I know very little about the Math PAC generally,” he told CBS News. “If it’s the case that we have the rules that we have, and people want to support my message and my campaign, given the system we have right now, they’re free to do so.”
“I just hope they are aligned with my vision for the country and invest accordingly,” he continued.
Yang’s response contrasts with comments from Democratic rivals like former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, both of whom said they didn’t welcome support from super PACs purportedly set up to back them. Yang has previously said he supports overturning Citizens United, the court ruling that helped pave the way for the existence of super PACs.
End Citizens United, a Democratic campaign finance reform group, condemned Yang for welcoming the help of a super PAC.
“As the only candidate in the Democratic primary openly embracing the help of a single-candidate super PAC, Andrew Yang has sold out to big money and ended any pretense of running a grassroots campaign,” End Citizens United President Tiffany Muller said. “Single digit poll numbers and a big money super PAC bailing you out doesn’t equal a winning campaign. The math doesn’t add up.”
Yang, who previously headed the nonprofit group Venture for America, is best known for proposing a universal basic income, promising every American a guaranteed $1,000 a month.
Yang’s polling and fundraising have been strong enough to qualify him for DNC-sanctioned debates, but he has yet to break into the top tier of candidates. He raised $10 million in the third quarter, more than higher-profile candidates including Booker and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Only one other 2020 Democratic candidate, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, had embraced the support of a super PAC. Inslee dropped out of the presidential race in August.