Politics

Elizabeth Warren says she doesn’t want a super PAC. Now, she’s getting help from one anyway.

Warren's campaign says her position hasn't changed. But they're also not asking the group to stop.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren holds a box of doughnuts as she joins members of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 at a rally Wednesday in Las Vegas. Mark Ralston / AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s grassroots fundraising strategy has been a hallmark of her presidential campaign, and cudgel to use against her rivals.

During the more recent Democratic presidential primary debate, the Massachusetts senator went out of her way to note that every other candidate on stage — besides herself and fellow Sen. Amy Klobuchar — was “either a billionaire or is receiving help from PACs that can do unlimited spending.”

And she wasn’t wrong, at least at the time.

However, ahead of the Nevada caucuses Saturday, the Massachusetts senator is getting some outside help from the same type of dark-money group she has repeatedly denounced.

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A super PAC called Persist PAC is running digital and local TV ads in Nevada in support of Warren’s campaign, the group’s spokesman Joshua Karp confirmed Wednesday to Boston.com. Karp said that the “seven-figure” ad buy began Wednesday and that Persist PAC — which officially filed papers Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission — will “likely” continue to air pro-Warren ads in the states that vote after Nevada as well.

Their first ad highlights Warren’s middle-class upbringing and her work to establish the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“When you don’t grow up rich, you learn how to work,” the ad’s narrator says. “When you take on Wall Street, you know how to fight. When the system is broken, you step up to fix it. That’s why Obama picked her.”

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The ad — which comes as Warren and her rivals vie to highlight their ties to former President Barack Obama — could give the Cambridge Democrat a needed boost in Nevada, after finishing third and fourth in the primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, respectively.

That doesn’t mean she wants the help; Warren, a critic of the influence of wealthy interests in politics, swore off “PAC money of any kind” from the start of her campaign and has refused help from super PACs, which can independently spend unlimited amounts of money and do not have to disclose their typically well-heeled donors (Persist PAC isn’t doing so either).

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“Senator Warren’s position hasn’t changed,” her campaign said in a statement Wednesday to Axios, which first reported the news of Persist PAC’s formation.

“Since day one of this campaign, she has made clear that she thinks all of the candidates should lock arms together and say we don’t want super PACS and billionaires to be deciding our Democratic nominee,” the statement added.

However, the campaign did not directly call on Persist PAC to cease operations, which was a departure from their previous response to supportive dark money groups. When a nonprofit that did not disclose its donors began running pro-Warren ads in Iowa in November, the Warren campaign called on the group to “stop purchasing advertisements of any kind.”

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“Elizabeth Warren believes democracy is undermined by anonymous, dark-money attempts to influence voters — whether that influence is meant to help or hurt her candidacy,” Warren campaign spokesman Chris Hayden told Politico at the time.

Asked on Wednesday if the campaign planned to call on Persist PAC to stop airing their ads as well, Hayden sent Boston.com the same statement that was sent to Axios.

Karp declined to comment on the Warren campaign’s response and said he didn’t want to “engage in hypotheticals,” when asked what Persist PAC would do if Warren’s campaign did call on them to stop purchasing ads.

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Persist PAC is begin lead by a board of four progressive women — Denise Feriozzi, Kristine Kippins, Karin Johanson, and Kim Rogers — who support Warren’s campaign, which has been centered around addressing the corruptive influence of money in politics. However, the group feels it is necessary to play within the exiting rules to amplify Warren’s message in order to ultimately fix the system.

Warren has disagreed with that view for the vast majority of her campaign, even going so far to self-impose a pledge to forgo big-money fundraisers through both the primary race and in a potential general election. She has also criticized rival campaigns for their reliance on wealthy donors, whether it be on the traditional fundraising circuit, through a super PAC, or from the candidate themselves.

While most of the Democratic presidential candidates had sworn off super PACs during the early stages of the primary race, every remaining top-tier candidate is now receiving some form of super PAC support — with the exceptions of Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, two billionaires who are self-funding their campaigns. A super PAC even formed this week to boost Klobuchar going forward, despite the Minnesota Democrat’s public insistence that she didn’t want one.

During the debate in New Hampshire earlier this month, Warren argued that not being beholden to wealthy donors was a reason she was best positioned to defeat President Donald Trump. The senator also suggested that her fellow Democrats should also walk the walk if they wanted to address limitless spending in elections.

“If you really want to live where you say, then put your money where your mouth is and say no to the PACs,” Warren said.

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