SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who spent much of her presidential campaign condemning super PACs as part of a corrupt campaign finance system that favors the wealthy and powerful, now appears to be the single biggest beneficiary of super PACs in the 2020 Democratic presidential field.
Persist PAC, the super PAC backing Warren’s candidacy, announced on Thursday night it would spend an additional $9 million helping Warren with television and digital advertising in some of the most expensive media markets in the country — including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas and Boston — ahead of so-called Super Tuesday, when voters will award roughly one-third of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention. The cash infusion could help Warren rack up a significant number of delegates on the most important day of the 2020 Democratic primary so far.
On Friday morning, the Warren campaign called for the PAC to reveal its donors before Tuesday’s crucial elections.
“Warren believes Persist PAC and all other super PACs should disclose their donors before Super Tuesday,” campaign spokesman Chris Hayden said.
But a spokesman for Persist PAC said the group would stick to the legally required March 20 deadline to report its donors to the Federal Election Commission, after roughly three-fifths of the delegates to the convention will have been awarded. (One of the group’s donors is already known: EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, said they provided $250,000 to the group.)
Most of the candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential field originally shunned super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums but are not allowed to coordinate directly with candidates and campaigns. Warren led the charge on the issue, challenging other candidates to swear off outside spending and running television ads highlighting her stance. But starting with a reversal by former Vice President Joe Biden, candidates began changing their position on the issue, and a field-wide stance against outside groups crumbled.
Warren, who first accepted the help of a super PAC in the run-up to the Nevada caucuses earlier this month, said she would call for Persist PAC to stop operations if the other candidates in the field request the same of super PACs supporting them.
“I haven’t changed my position at all,” she told reporters after a rally in San Antonio. “My position continues to be that all of the candidates should agree not to do super PACs. But it’s gonna take all of us, because that’s the only way that one will work.”
There has been little evidence of Warren paying a political price for her reversal so far: Neither the moderators nor her opponents pressed her on the issue at either of the last two Democratic debates.
Persist PAC’s investment in Texas, California and Massachusetts is one of the single biggest ad buys of the 2020 contest so far — save for those made by self-funding billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg — and makes the group likely the single-biggest outside spender in the race so far. By comparison, Unite The Country, a super PAC backing Biden, has announced plans to spend less than $1 million in the Super Tuesday states.
The group is also embracing practices the Warren campaign has eschewed, hiring traditional consultants and pollsters. Eric Adelstein and Ann Liston of Chicago-based AL Media are making the group’s ads, which so far have focused on Warren’s biography, including President Barack Obama’s selection of her to help lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“When you don’t grow up rich, you learn how to work. When you take on Wall Street, you learn how to fight,” a female narrator says at the start of the 30-second ad the group is airing in Super Tuesday states.