A new campaign-finance-reform PAC with big spending plans is endorsing four new Democratic Senate candidates, including one in battleground Florida's contested Democratic primary.
End Citizens United PAC will support Rep. Patrick Murphy in the Florida Senate race, as well as Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii. The group is dedicated to electing Democratic candidates who support overturning Citizens United and other Supreme Court decisions that have loosened the reins on campaign spending.
The PAC's decision in Florida—where Murphy is taking on Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal firebrand whose progressive leanings have endeared him to small donors—is most interesting. After the Citizens United ruling, which removed restrictions on corporate spending in politics, Grayson called it the "most irresponsible decision by the Supreme Court since the Dred Scott decision."
Richard Carbo, the communications director for End Citizens United PAC and a former Murphy staffer, noted that his group decided to endorse Murphy before Grayson jumped into the race last month (and before he was hired from Murphy's office).
"We're appreciative of [Grayson's] efforts on this issue, but we've signaled that we're ready to help Mr. Murphy do what he needs to do to be elected to the Senate," said Carbo.
Campaign-finance-focused PACs have hit-or-miss records, both in terms of fundraising and actually winning elections, but End Citizens United has already raised $2 million online and plans to spend $25 to $30 million through an independent-expenditure arm that will launch next spring. The average donation size is about $15.
The group has access to Ready for Hillary's large donor list and expects it to fuel fundraising. Carbo called the partnership with the PAC that laid groundwork for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign a "strong validator for the mission of this organization."
Whether End Citizens United PAC can actually get campaign-finance reform enacted is another question entirely, though.
Last cycle, Mayday PAC—a super PAC led by Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig that raised money to end super PACs—achieved little in the way of results despite spending $10 million.
Carbo maintained that End Citizens United PAC's approach is different, saying, "We are engaging a large number of people all across the country on this issue who are passionate about overturning Citizens United." The new group is getting an earlier start than Lessig's effort, and more than 325,000 people have already signed its online petition calling for reform, further building its fundraising base.