By Alex Roarty
Two influential Democratic-aligned outside groups will officially merge Friday, forming what will likely be one of the party’s best-funded organizations focused on campaign finance reform and voting rights.
The groups, End Citizens United and Let America Vote, have already begun to combine staff ahead of filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to create a joint PAC, officials with both groups told McClatchy.
As part of the merger, LVA’s founder Jason Kander, a former Missouri Secretary of State and Senate Democratic nominee, will no longer hold a formal role with the group, though he says he hopes to remain involved in some capacity later this year. ECU, led by President Tiffany Muller, will take control of Let America Vote’s operations.
Leaders from both groups say the merger was a natural fit for organizations with different but intertwined missions: ECU, named after the Supreme Court decision that eased restrictions on corporate and nonprofit spending on elections, advocated for changes to campaign finance law, while LVA, founded in 2017, emphasized voting rights.
The newly combined group will retain both names — “End Citizens United and Let America Vote” — and continue to work on both sets of issues.
“The same people who are pouring money into our system are the same people who are trying to suppress the vote and keep people from the ballot box,” Muller said in an interview. “So these two missions fit really well together.”
ECU was a big spender during the 2018 midterm elections, raising $44 million total for itself, its endorsed candidates and ballot initiative campaigns. Muller said the budget for 2020 is projected to grow to $50 million.
Kander said officials from his group first approached ECU about combining efforts. As part of the merger, ECU will close LAV’s nonprofit and super PAC arms.
For Kander, stepping away from LAV means leaving a group he founded in the aftermath of narrowly losing a 2016 Senate race in Missouri, a defeat that nonetheless made him a national star within the Democratic Party.
In 2018, Kander withdrew from the Kansas City mayoral race, saying he was suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. He’s since taken a job with a veterans group that builds tiny homes for homeless veterans.
“Everybody keeps asking me, ‘Are you back?’” Kander said. “And I feel like I’ve been back for a few months because of the work I’ve been doing for veterans.”
He added that even if he doesn’t know how yet, he plans to be involved in the new group’s efforts in 2020, saying this year’s election “doesn’t get more important than this.”
Officials with the newly formed group say after the merger, they plan to increase operations in three states — Arizona, North Carolina, and New Hampshire — to back endorsed candidates there. Each state is expected to host competitive presidential, Senate and House races in 2020.