By Nikoel Hytrek
In late October, former Vice President Joe Biden indicated he would no longer oppose super PAC money for his campaign, breaking ranks with the majority of the Democratic field.
Rejecting money from corporate Political Action Committees has been one of the major campaign promises for candidates in 2020, and it has inspired a lot of enthusiasm from voters. Though not all of the candidates have rejected super PACs, Biden had previously said he would not accept their support. Just this week, a new super PAC appears to be forming to support Sen. Cory Booker. Newly-announced candidate Deval Patrick said yesterday the assistance of a super PAC may be necessary.
Earlier this year, End Citizens United released a poll in the battleground states of Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The poll showed that reforming the campaign finance system was a top issue.
Recently, End Citizens United ran a new poll, shared with Starting Line, of 715 likely Democratic caucus-goers, showing campaign finance reform was still top of mind.
The New Numbers
Respondents were asked if they would be more or less likely to caucus for a candidate who welcomed super PAC help. On that question, 64% said they were less likely and 29% said it wouldn’t make a difference in their support.
The poll was conducted from November 5-6, after Biden announced his new position on super PAC money for his campaign, but before newcomers entered the race.
“The key to winning for any candidate is to show voters you’re on their side. As Vice President Biden has said, how can middle-class families trust you if you have your own super PAC?” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United. “This clearly matters to voters, and these results spell trouble for any presidential candidate who has welcomed the support of a super PAC. The Democratic primary should be about generating real grassroots enthusiasm and support, not about who the wealthy donors and special interests want in the White House.”
When asked about anti-corruption legislation, 91% of respondents said it was important to them [62% very important; 29% somewhat important]. And when asked how much of a problem it was to have unlimited, special interest money in an election, 91% of voters said it was a major problem.
For comparison, only 74% indicated Medicare for All was important; 79% rated the Green New Deal as important, and 90% of respondents said they thought gun safety legislation was important.
Another comparable figure was immigration reform, which was rated as important by 91% of respondents.
Introduction Of More Big Money
Since then, both Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, and Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, have entered the race.
Bloomberg is a billionaire and Patrick hasn’t committed to rejecting money from super PACs, something Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has called him out for.
“I’m pleased to welcome Governor Patrick to the race. Governors know how to get things done and we need more of that in Washington,” Bullock said in a press release. “But in order to truly change the way Washington works, we need to end the toxic influence of money in our politics. That’s why I’ve pledged to reject support from all corporate PACs, Dark Money groups, and Super PACs — and I urge Governor Patrick to join me.”
Bloomberg’s wealth could help him too in terms of self-funding, and it has prompted comments from several candidates.
Will Anti-Big Money Views Affect The Vote?
The poll also asked caucus-goers how favorable their opinion was of the major candidates. Only eight of the current campaigns have promised to reject super PAC money. All 14 have sworn off corporate PACs.
For Biden, 59% of voters had a positive opinion of him, while 29% said it was unfavorable.
But it’s unlikely those approval ratings were directly related to money and corruption. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, two candidates who often condemn money’s influence in politics, polled differently.
Warren’s rating was 66% favorable and 22% unfavorable, while Sanders polled at 58% favorable and 32% unfavorable.
Based on this poll, voters clearly care about corruption and the influence of special interests in politics; the question now is how much opponents of super PAC funding can tie that to the candidates who take the help.