A top campaign finance reform group is asking Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to disavow a super PAC formed to support him as he runs for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
End Citizens United, which backs Democrats who support campaign finance reform, sent a letter to Inslee on Monday asking him to disavow Act On Climate Now, a super PAC set up by a former top aide to Inslee at the Democratic Governors’ Association.
“To date, many candidates in the primary have already said they believe no candidate should have a single-candidate super PAC in this race,” End Citizens United President Tiffany Mueller wrote in the letter. “By doing so, they are declaring that this campaign should be about doing what’s right for the American people, not special interests. We urge you to join the candidates in the Democratic presidential primary who have taken this bold step, and publicly disavow this effort and any other effort to create a single-candidate super PAC that serves as a shadow support to your campaign.”
The Inslee campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on the letter.
The missive is the latest sign of how central campaign finance reform will be to the 2020 presidential race. In 2018, Democrats across the ideological spectrum promised not to take donations from corporate PACs, a position that helped Democrats win back control of the House of Representatives. Many of the senators running for president, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have said they don’t want the support of super PACs.
But that’s an easier position for Warren, Sanders and other senators with a history of raising large sums of money online. Governors like Inslee have historically had less of a national profile and may struggle to match higher-profile candidates on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
Super PACs can accept donations of any size and spend unlimited sums as long as they don’t coordinate with the candidates they support. The Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 case Citizens United vs. FEC gave rise to these groups, and also gave End Citizens United its name.
Nearly every candidate in the 2016 GOP presidential primary – save for President Donald Trump – had a super PAC. So far, operatives have formed super PACs to back New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Inslee. While Booker has said he doesn’t want the support of a super PAC, Inslee has declined to comment on the matter.
Act Now On Climate, which didn’t respond to an email requesting comment, is already actively supporting Inslee’s bid, which officially launched on Friday. The group is running Facebook ads that link to a page on Inslee’s website encouraging users to sign up for the campaign’s email list and is set to air television ads in the crucial early caucus state of Iowa.
End Citizens United chose to speak out about the group because single-candidate groups provide more of an opportunity for corruption than other super PACs.
“Even worse than super PACs themselves are single-candidate super PACs,” Mueller wrote. “These are super PACs designed to serve as an arm of the campaign. They exist when politicians either directly raise money for the super PAC or signal to big donors that the super PAC has their support.”