Beto O'Rourke told PACs to stay out of his race. They aren't listening

Democrat Beto O'Rourke has sworn off the support of outside groups -- including super PACs -- in his race to unseat R...

Posted: May 13, 2018 10:44 AM
Updated: May 13, 2018 8:42 PM

Democrat Beto O'Rourke has sworn off the support of outside groups -- including super PACs -- in his race to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.

That's not stopping some super PACs, however, from throwing money into a contest that has energized the Democratic base at the thought of turning deep-red Texas blue come November.

This past Thursday, the Democratic Coalition, a liberal super PAC, announced it would be launching an initiative to support O'Rourke's Senate campaign. After the announcement, the congressman from Texas told CNN, "I'm not interested in the help of any PACs or super PACs, including this one."

Scott Dworkin, the co-founder of the Democratic Coalition, isn't concerned that the candidate he supports is explicitly asking him not to get involved, and vows that his organization will push forward regardless.

"Campaigns can say whatever they want, that's fine, but I mean, we get involved with whatever we want," Dworkin said.

The impasse highlights the awkward dynamic candidates like O'Rourke who have taken a stand against dark money groups face; they can rail against PAC money on the trail all they want, but they're powerless to stop the groups from spending money in support of their candidacies.

Under campaign finance laws, campaigns and super PACs aren't allowed to coordinate directly with each other.

O'Rourke has received nationwide attention because of his stellar fundraising numbers, especially considering he's running as a Democrat in Texas, where no member of his party has won a statewide race since 1994.

In the first three months of 2018 alone, O'Rourke raised $6.7 million and had $8 million cash on hand, while during that same time period, Cruz raised $3.2 million and had $8.1 million on hand.

In April, Democratic donor Marc Stanley announced he was launching his own super PAC, FTC PAC, which is short for Fire Ted Cruz, to support O'Rourke. And billionaire Tom Steyer has also said he was considering getting his super PAC, NextGen America, into the senate race.

Then, as now, O'Rourke rejected the super PACs' support.

Since then, Steyer hasn't taken any public steps towards supporting O'Rourke's campaign, while Stanley has vowed to move forward.

Dworkin and the Democratic Coalition are taking the latter's approach..

"It's a great stance to have, but with half a million members and one of the biggest progressive bases, and having the biggest online operation in the party, I think that we're gonna support him, no matter what," Dworkin said.

Dworkin said his group is still planning its budget, so he doesn't know how much they plan to invest in Texas.

Recently the Democratic Coalition has received criticism because of the high fees the group has paid out to its own staff, including Dworkin.

The group has launched a fundraising page for the race laying out a three-pronged strategy that involves registering voters and getting Democrats to the polls, creating digital ads promoting O'Rourke and criticizing Cruz, and investing in opposition research against Cruz.

O'Rourke is explicit though, that he doesn't want the help of Tom Steyer, the Democratic Coalition or any other outside group.

"As I said when asked about Tom Steyer's super PAC, thanks, but no thanks," O'Rourke said,

"For Democratic Coalition, for Tom Steyer, for any PACs or super PACs considering doing this, we don't want their involvement. That's not how we're running this campaign."

But Dworkin wasn't deterred. "If campaigns ever have complaints, we respect their complaints," he said, but "there's nothing that he says that can change everything that we're doing."

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