Super PACs, which can raise unlimited contributions from donors and spend those dollars without limits, have been controversial among Democrats who decry the influence of big money on politics.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is getting big financial backing from a new super PAC as he makes his first visit to Iowa since declaring his presidential candidacy.
Act Now on Climate, a super PAC led by Inslee allies, announced the $1 million ad buy Tuesday, billing it as the first seven-figure ad buy of the 2020 election cycle. The broadcast spots will run in Iowa, as well as on national cable and online, said spokeswoman Christy Setzer.
The ads, first reported by The Hill, will start in Iowa on Wednesday. The 30-second ad calls Inslee a “governor who transformed his state into a clean energy leader.” While technically made independently of Inslee’s campaign, the ad nonetheless directs viewers to Inslee’s campaign website.
Super PACs, which can raise unlimited contributions from donors and spend those dollars without limits, have been controversial among Democrats who decry the influence of big money on politics. Act Now on Climate will eventually have to disclose its donors, but only twice this year.
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Most of the announced 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have disavowed the committees and called on others to follow suit.
“No asking billionaires to start a super PAC,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a presidential candidate, tweeted on Monday, with a link to a story on the Inslee super PAC. “I challenge every other candidate to do the same.”
Warren, and Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Bernie Sanders, and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro have all said they don’t want a super PAC to work on their behalf. But, because these political-action committees are technically independent of a candidate’s control, not all have gotten their way. Booker has a super PAC to support him, started by a college classmate and wealthy donor.
On Monday, End Citizens United, a progressive campaign-finance reform group, wrote an open letter to Inslee, urging him to “publicly disavow this effort and any other effort to create a single-candidate super PAC that serves as a shadow support to your campaign.”
“Listen, I am not going to condemn anybody who is fighting climate change. We need to beat climate change, it’s a national mission statement number one,” he said Tuesday when asked by a reporter about the super PAC.
Inslee pointed out that he was not, however, accepting corporate PAC donations or money from fossil-fuel interests.
The news follows Inslee’s own announcement on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show that his nascent campaign has already raised $1 million. Inslee spokesman Jamal Raad said that fundraising haul is separate from a federal PAC the governor created late last year.
After a round of national media appearances over the weekend in New York City, Inslee made his first stop in Iowa on Tuesday, beginning with a tour of Paulson Electric Company in Cedar Rapids. The company showed off solar panels it had installed on the roof of its offices.
A video crew from the pro-Inslee super PAC was on hand for the tour.
Later in the day Inslee attended a “clean energy roundtable” with students at Iowa State University in Ames, and then talked with climate activists at a Des Moines law office in the evening.