Former Vice President Joe Biden is rejecting the help of a super PAC formed to support his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“Vice President Biden does not welcome assistance from super PACs,” a Biden spokesman wrote in an email to HuffPost in response to questions about the newly formed For the People, which purports to be backing Biden.
Super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited sums ― often collected from wealthy donors ― on behalf of a political candidate, provided they do not coordinate directly with the candidate’s campaigns. Many of the Republican presidential contenders in 2016 had super PACs, but most Democrats have rejected them in 2020, bowing to pressure from progressive groups and campaign finance reform advocates.
If a candidate rejects the help of a super PAC, it can often make it harder for the PAC to raise the money it needs to operate.
For the People, the existence of which was first reported by The Hill, seems like an odd creation. For one, “For the People” is the slogan of California Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign, not Biden’s.
Second, the group was originally named “Biden PAC,” according to the Federal Election Commission. That’s a problem because it’s against FEC rules to name a super PAC directly after a candidate the PAC plans to support or oppose. While the group’s name is supposed to be “For the People,” it’s still listed in FEC records as “G Street.”
Third, the operatives behind the PAC ― Matthew Tompkins, a Democratic fundraiser, is listed as the group’s treasurer ― are relatively little known in Democratic circles. Another PAC formed by Tompkins earlier this year, America’s Future Majority Fund, neither raised nor spent any money in its first two months of existence, according to FEC records.
In an email, Tompkins said the group was necessary to combat Republicans and potential foreign interference in the election.
“This week President Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani gave a green light live on television to all the bad actors, foreign and domestic, that it is open season on the Democrats,” he wrote. “The GOP knows Joe Biden is the one Democrat who can defeat Trump. Biden has long been on record publicly opposing the Citizens United decision. That is his position, and the right one, but in order to defeat Donald Trump in 2020 we must work within campaign finance laws as they exist, not as we wish they did. The creation of For the People PAC will ensure vital resources exist and are ready to fight back and twice has hard.”
Most Democratic candidates have said they would only disavow super PACs during the primary, and will be willing to match President Donald Trump dollar-for-dollar during the general election. In the meantime, the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA has already begun running digital ads attacking Trump, and is prepared to spend tens of millions of dollars before the party settles on a nominee.
End Citizens United, the campaign finance reform group, thanked Biden for rejecting the help of super PACs during the primary.
“Vice President Biden has been outspoken in the past about his opposition to single-candidate super PACs and we applaud his leadership,” the group’s communications director, Patrick Burgwinkle, wrote in an email. “We agree with him that in a system awash with money, the middle class doesn’t have a fighting chance.”
Biden has been fairly consistent in his opposition to super PACs. In his memoir, “Promise Me, Dad,” he writes that he would have “reject[ed] the super PAC system” had he run for president in 2016.
“I knew there was big money out there for me,” Biden writes. “But I also knew people were sick of it all. ‘We The People’ didn’t ring so true anymore. It was more like ‘We The Donors.’”
Biden, like every other top-tier candidate in the Democratic primary field, is rejecting money from corporate PACs and federal lobbyists. He did receive criticism for attending a fundraiser hosted by a top government affairs official at Comcast on the same day he announced his presidential bid.
Among the crowded 2020 Democratic field, only Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is accepting the backing of a super PAC. The PAC, which has spent heavily on television and digital ads, is run by a former top aide to Inslee at the Democratic Governors Association. Steve Phillips, a prominent Democratic donor and strategist, has also set up a super PAC to support New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s bid, but Booker’s campaign has said it doesn’t want outside assistance.