Ever since the Citizens United v. FEC court case (2010) brought campaign finances to the forefront of American politics, PACs have been closely scrutinized, with many considering them lobbying and “special interest” organizations. Ori Simon Bechtel explains why the newest super PAC, formed to support Andrew Yang’s campaign, is no exception.
A brand new super PAC has entered the political arena. Math PAC, headed by Democratic operative Will Hailer, began its operations in mid-October with one goal in mind: To “ensure that Andrew Yang is elected the next President of the United States.” Its goals are not small—it expects to have upwards of a million dollars in cash to spend on advertising and outreach in early primary states.
Will Hailer, the man behind the PAC, is a political mainstay in the Democratic Party, most notably as a longtime advisor to Keith Ellison, a former House member from Minnesota’s 5th district who served both as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and vice-chair of the Congressional LGBT Caucus.
Political action committees, commonly known as PACs, are organizations that raise and spend money to influence elections and legislation. There has been great controversy surrounding these groups because they allow larger monetary contributions than the normal donation limit—and super PACs have no limit on fundraising or spending. While they cannot contribute to a candidate directly or coordinate with them, many people still consider the organizations unethical because they can change the outcome of an election.
“He (Andrew) is running against governors, senators, and institutional actors that have these apparatuses that they can automatically tap into… the only way to be able to give voice to an incredibly important conversation is to find ways to add value to that voice. And that’s what we’re hoping to do through the super PAC,” says Hailer.
However, Andrew Yang has previously called for an end to super PACs, and his comprehensive democracy reform policies have earned him large amounts of praise from advocacy groups like Equal Citizens, which gave him an A+ rating for his policies on this issue. Since super PACs are intended to be independent of the campaigns they support, candidates can usually do very little to cut them loose if they do not want their assistance. This puts Yang in a similar situation to Cory Booker, who has also attracted a super PAC that he claims he does not wish to receive support from. Yang has neither denounced nor endorsed the Math PAC, saying that he knows “very little” about them and they were “free” to support him.
The presence of a super PAC helping out Andrew’s campaign presents advantages as well as potential pitfalls for Andrew. While it should be restated that Andrew Yang ultimately does not have control over whether PACs help him or not, it nonetheless presents a potential issue for some voters that fret about PAC money, which is very much a valid concern. In fact, it may be an especially egregious mistake to make to embrace the PAC money during this election in particular, as only one candidate this cycle has done so. However, Andrew does not yet have quite the same amount of resources as some of the more recognizable, established candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris. That extra cash could allow him to draw even with them, even if Andrew may not want it done in that manner.