The Mayday Super PAC, asking Americans to “embrace the irony,” is planning on spending millions of dollars (half from big donors) in order to promote policies that it says would enact “fundamental reform in the way elections are funded.” Some are enthusiastic about the prospect. Others are derisive. I am uncertain. On the one hand, the Mayday PAC is fairly explicit about the reforms it says it supports — vouchers and matching programs — and has released some data regarding its smaller funders. That’s promising. On the other hand, the American landscape is replete with groups that say they oppose big money in politics but turn out to have a hidden agenda. Mayday PAC leaders ask us to take their sincerity on faith, and some of those same leaders were involved with Americans Elect, which portrayed itself as pro-democratic but acted anti-democratically in practice.
This means that I’m inclined to watch Mayday PAC’s actions very closely. Does it act in a manner consistent with its promises and professed principles? Does Mayday PAC allow its biggest donors a special say in the candidate selection process? Does Mayday PAC select candidates who support a narrow range of policies having nothing to do with campaign finance? Does Mayday PAC send money to those who have a cozy social relationship with Mayday leadership?
On that last point, we’re about to witness a test of the Mayday PAC. Some time this week, the Mayday PAC is scheduled to announce the roster of Congressional candidates it will support with its unlimited “independent” spending. One candidate for Congress, Nick Troiano, is a close Americans Elect colleague of Mayday PAC Board members Kahlil Byrd, Lawrence Lessig and Mark McKinnon; these three make up a majority of the Mayday PAC board. Lately, curious public feelers have been sent out mentioning Nick Troiano in the same breath as the Mayday PAC. Some examples:
@MAYDAYUS Please check out Nick Troiano. 25 year old running in Pa. District 10 against Tom Marino. Won't take any special interest money.
— inez milholland (@inezonahorse) July 23, 2014
— inez milholland (@inezonahorse) July 26, 2014
— Krist Novoselić (@KristNovoselic) July 16, 2014
“(I) Nick Troiano vs. Rep. Tom Marino (PA-08) Nick Troiano is a young guy who worked for Americans Elect and several other political reform nonprofits who speaks directly to campaign finance reform (and reform in general) in his platform. It is tough to win as an independent but he is a moderate running a smart, well-funded, disciplined campaign, and $2 million could make a real difference for him. Marino is a real scumbag.” — Comment to Reddit Thread by Mayday PAC CTO: “The board meets this upcoming week to decide the candidates we’ll independently support. Who are your top picks?”
If you think these aren’t an explicit enough connection to the Troiano campaign, how about this letter to the editor from Troiano campaign petition circulator Jerry Kairnes? (update: per Mr. Kairnes’ request, note that this is the second half of his letter):
“We need a Congress that is free to lead. We need candidates like Independent Nick Troiano running this year in our district, who raised more than $85,000 exclusively from more than 500+ citizen donors, an amount more than any nonparty candidate in the country. We need to elect a Congress that is dedicated to campaign finance reform and we won’t get our democracy back until we change the way campaigns are funded.
“That is the driving force behind Mayday, a citizen-funded Super PAC more than 50,000 small donors strong. Mayday is a Super PAC, whose only goal is to end all Super PACs, forever. It is an ambitious plan that will support five races in 2014 to prove that a reform candidate can win, followed by as many races in 2016 as necessary, to elect a Congress that is dedicated to campaign funding reform.
“The Mayday Super PAC should choose our Congressional district, PA10 as one of its 2014 pilot races. Let’s have a level playing field and give us the chance to lead the way and choose campaign funding reform.
Not enough for you? Heck, Nick Troiano has even sent out a feeler himself:
— Nick Troiano (@NickTroiano) July 16, 2014
Will the Mayday PAC board follow the path of social-network politics and divert its funds to a friend? Or will Mayday PAC avoid the temptation and stay true to its call for an end to cronyism in politics? Watch this week and see.