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Mayday PAC Leadership: Not Alone but in Overlap with Other Political Corporations

The Mayday Super PAC, which has asked for big money donations in the name of stopping big money donations (“embrace the irony”), has marketed itself as something new and innovative, right down to the use of hipster indie millenial movement phrases like “kickstart” and “leap” and “change the story.”  Given the vocabulary of Mayday PAC’s promotional material, you certainly could be forgiven for thinking it was a non-profit startup working from scratch.  It turns out that you’d be wrong.

The following are the named leadership staff of the Mayday Super PAC:

Kahlil Byrd Board Member
Jim Greer Board Member
Marcia Morris Board Member
Lawrence Lessig Board Member and Founder
Mark McKinnon Board Member and Founder
Szelena Gray COO
Aaron Lifshin CTO
Brian Boyko Deputy CTO
Rachel Perkins Helpdesk Coordinator
Trevor Potter Legal Counsel
Matthew Sanderson Legal Counsel
Rohan Siddhanti Volunteer Coordinator

Now look at the leadership board of United Republic, another political corporation that solicits big donations and that seeks through its webpage to run campaigns that “pressure politicians at every level of government who fail to support the standards of the Anti-Corruption Act: make corruption a ballot-box issue”:

Jack Abramoff Board Member
Ethan Beard Board Member
Jack Cogan Board Member
Todd DiPaola Board Member
Cecelia Frontero Board Member
Joe Greenstein Board Member
Jonathan Haidt Board Member
Dennis Kelleher Board Member
Lawrence Lessig Board Member
David Levine Board Member
Susan McCue Board Member
Mark McKinnon Board Member
Norm Ornstein Board Member
Richard Painter Board Member
Hadi Partovi Board Member
Nick Penniman Board Member
Robert Reynolds Board Member
Buddy Roemer Board Member
Theodore Roosevelt IV Board Member
Douglas Schoen Board Member
James Speth Board Member
Bayan Towfiq Board Member
Albert Wenger Board Member
Tom Whitmore Board Member

Ready for another political corporation?  Look at the named leaders of Fund for the Republic, which through an arm called Action for the Republic plans to spend money in campaigns against certain congressional candidates in the 2014 election:

Juleanna Glover Advisor
Lawrence Lessig Advisor
Mark McKinnon Advisor
Trevor Potter Advisor
Bill Burgess Board Member
Whitney Hatch Board Member
Ruth Hennig Board Member
Arnold Hiatt Board Member
Julie Kohler Board Member
J.B. Lyon Board Member
Mike Peabody Board Member
Vin Ryan Board Member
Ian Simmons Board Member
Kahlil Byrd Chief Investment Officer
Leigh Beasley Communications Manager
Bill Smith Consultant
Kaitlin Murphy Development Coordinator
Gerad Teague Development Research Manager
Shirley Hamilton Hartman Director of Development
Cindy Burnette Executive Assistant
Nick Penniman Executive Director
Cory Hodson Fundraising and Development Intern
David Simpson Managing Director
Christine Mahler Operations Manager
Laurie Roberts Program Associate
David Gomez Program Coordinator

Phew! I know, there are a lot of names here.  We’re almost done.  Take a look at one more political corporation: Run for America.  Here’s what Run for America plans to do in 2016:

“Run for America is a post-partisan initiative designed to fix our dysfunctional politics by strategically supporting a new generation of highly talented leaders, innovators, social change agents, entrepreneurs, and outside the box thinkers for public office. These leaders are driven not by political self-preservation, party loyalty, or serving special interests, but by a desire to solve big problems, will in turn will offer a new approach to politics and be able to lead us into an era of problem-solving, common sense, less polarized politics. To this end, Run for America will recruit, support, and elect 10-20 candidates for U.S. House races in the 2016 election. Our group of candidates will be highly diverse, and “look like America,” at least 50% of our candidates will be women. Once elected to office, theseMembers of Congress will be the loudest voices pushing to address the key challenges facing our country and our political system. “

Sound familiar?  The ostensible goal may be different (polarized politics and party loyalty instead of campaign finance), but the strategy is the same: pick some candidates and elect them to Congress.  Here are the named leaders of Run for America:

Doug Band Advisor
Kahlil Byrd Advisor
Cheryl Mills Advisor
Norm Ornstein Advisor
Ben Silverman Advisor
David Burstein CEO
Chris Ashby Legal Counsel
Trevor Potter Legal Counsel
Brian Edelman Team
Rebecca Kantar Team
Andy McCracken Team
Erin Schrode Team

Venn Diagram of Leadership Overlap for Fund for the Republic, United Republic, Mayday PAC and Run for America

Now, there sure are a lot of names in the leadership lists of these four political corporations: 76 names, as a matter of fact.  But there are very few of these names that appear in the leadership roster of more than one of these groups.  All but six of these leaders are in the leadership of just one or two of the four political corporations. Nick Penniman is in the leadership of two of these groups: Fund for the Republic and United Republic.  Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute is also in the leadership of two groups: Run for America and United Republic.  The remaining four individuals are each in the leadership of three out of four political corporations:

Kahlil Byrd Mayday PAC, Run for America, Fund for theRepublic
Lawrence Lessig Mayday PAC, Fund for the Republic, United Republic
Mark McKinnon Mayday PAC, Fund for the Republic, United Republic
Trevor Potter Mayday PAC, Run for America, Fund for the Republic

Each one of those four most central men is in the leadership of the Mayday PAC.  Three of the four of them make a ruling majority of the Mayday PAC board.

The Mayday Super PAC is not exactly lying to the American public about its embededness in DC political corporate circles.  But this fact is obscured by the Mayday PAC website, an exhaustive search of which reveals only one tangential note to the effect that just one of these leaders — Kahlil Byrd — is a leader of just one of these other political corporations — Fund for the Republic.  The Mayday PAC website does not reveal any of the other existing core leadership overlaps.  Why is that?

It has been noted by scholars of administration that overlaps in corporate leadership are a product and predictor of coordinated activity.  One of the objections of campaign finance reformers is that too many groups are attempting to appear independent but are actually spending money in coordinated fashion toward shared political goals and excluding non-moneyed players in the process.  Is this another “irony” that we should “embrace”?

To be clear, the existence of a small central core spanning these four groups is not proof that the corporations are working in coordinated fashion with one another putting forth independent faces to the public.  On the other hand, the probability that these leadership overlaps occured by sheer chance is phenomenally small.  The Mayday Super PAC does not stand alone.  It is also part of a system.  In the spirit of political transparency, those who have been asked to give money to the Super PAC should be told.

20 thoughts on “Mayday PAC Leadership: Not Alone but in Overlap with Other Political Corporations”

  1. Bill says:

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that collusion is going on in here!

    Nice research. Thanks for the hard work, Jim.

  2. Jim says:

    Stop wasting your time trying to drum up controversy regarding the mayday PAC. You’re making a fool of yourself.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      You seem eager for me to be quiet and not share this information, Jim. Why is that? If wasting my time is all I’m doing, then no harm, right? People will just chuckle and move on. If on the other hand this is information people find useful, then they’ll make use of it. If you find what I write is in factual error, please share those errors and I’ll gladly make a correction. If you just want me to stop sharing the information I’ve found because of how that information makes you feel, then you probably have some cognitive dissonance of your own to work through.

  3. Jim says:

    I apologize for my statement. I’m sensitive when it comes to the mayday PAC because I believe it may actually change politics for the better. The current system is only serving the ultra wealthy. I don’t care how we get money out of polics as long as we do. I may be naive, but Larry Lessig seems to be a man of good character that is trying to do good with the mayday PAC. It may not be perfect, but it is only a few months old. Give it some time. I don’t have any agenda. I’m just a normal citizen that is fed up with politics as usual.

    1. Bill says:

      Jim, I know I speak for myself, and I suspect maybe I also speak for Jim Cook, when I say that we criticize (Mayday) because we care. We are as passionate as you are about getting plutocrats’ Big Dark Money out of politics.

      Now, speaking entirely for myself, I sincerely think Lessig is a swell guy. His heart’s in the right place, no question about that. But his head, right now, is…um…somewhere else entirely. He thinks that spending millions supporting the campaign of a teabagger like New Hampshire’s Jim Rubens is a brilliant first step on the long march to campaign finance reform, world peace, and free croutons for all. I think that’s nuts, as do ever-growing numbers of other folks.

      “Give it some time” is a fair enough request…except that Mayday hasn’t allowed us “some time” to give it. Tea-bagger Jim Rubens’ primary date is just 9 days away, and the vitally important November elections are just 3 months away. By that time Mayday and its strange-bedfellows strategy and millions in ill-considered campaign spending will have already done their horrible damage.

      We (mostly) held our tongues about Mayday, giving it some time, as you suggest, to see how it would raise money and who it would endorse. And 50% of those first two endorsements were so appallingly crazy that I, at least, can hold my tongue no longer. When an army attacks the land you love, you don’t give it some time to see how that plays out. You either run, or you fight back. The land I love is that of progressive principles. And Mayday is now attacking that land. Mayday picked the time and the place of the battle; not us.

      All that said (and speaking strictly for myself), I fully support Mayday’s goal of getting plutocratic dark money out of politics. And so I’d love to see it achieve that goal…but it never will if it keeps making a fool of itself in public with bone-headed moves like endorsing a teabagger. So it’s tough-love time. Lessig can bring this battle to an end any time he wants by realizing that Mayday screwed up, walking away from Teabag Rubens, and making better choices in future. I hope he will.

      1. Elliot S. says:

        First, I’ve been reading this blog recently and find the content quite interesting. Thank you!

        My interpretation was that Mayday’s endorsement of Rubens was a strategic move, to display clearly that campaign finance reform is a truly nonpartisan issue and that they are treating it as such. I imagine that significant action on campaign finance can’t and won’t happen without large bipartisan majorities, especially as the Republicans will certainly keep the House and likely take the Senate. I think Mayday realizes this and is trying to build a large coalition – not just of progressive Americans, but also including the half of America that thinks Rubens and his kind are wonderful. As someone who thinks campaign finance reform is important and doesn’t care for Jim Rubens, I still think that their endorsements were a good first move.

        1. J Clifford says:

          Eliot, the flaw in your assessment is that Jim Rubens doesn’t support comprehensive campaign finance reform. He isn’t in favor of taking big money out of politics. He only wants the big money to be reported a little bit more. So, what Mayday PAC has signaled is that it isn’t serious about getting big money out of politics.

          1. Elliot S. says:

            According to his platform (, Rubens wants to incentivize congressmen to opt out of “the current private money system” by enacting a public finance system for those who do so. This is a similar reform to the one that Mayday is championing, and I tend to think it would go a pretty long way to getting big money out of politics.

          2. J Clifford says:

            Eliot, that makes no sense. There is already a public finance system for candidates who choose to opt out of the private money system.

            So, how would the Mayday / Jim Rubens plan change ANYTHING?!?

          3. Elliot S. says:

            As far as I can tell, there is actually only a federal public financing system for Presidential candidates.

          4. Elliot S. says:

            In fact, only fourteen states have their own statewide public financing systems:

        2. Bill says:

          Lessig too thinks its a fiendishly clever strategic move (cue Dr. Evil: “Twelve million dollars!”). But ‘bipartisan’ it ain’t. Backing one moderate Democrat (+0.5) and one extremist Teapublican (-2.0) still leaves you, net, -1.5. What the final total will be after the next three bonehead endorsements makes me kind-of sick, just thinking about it.

          It’s a trick as old as the godforsaken Democratic Leadership Council [sic]: as Republicans charge ever further rightward, Dems (so the DLC argument goes) must follow, no more than a few respectful steps behind. It worked so brilliantly that today the Democrats are The Party of Eisenhower.

          Mayday: DLC version 2.0. Next stop: the Party of Nixon.

          1. George Russert says:

            The fact that there’s only ONE GOP member who is pro campaign finance reform has nothing to do with it right? You trolls are a piece of work.

          2. Bill says:

            The Dictionary According to Russert:

            “Troll: Guy I publicly disagree with in an inflammatory and fact-free manner”

          3. Jim Cook says:

            1. I’m sharing sourced and accurate information, George. That’s not the same as trolling.

            2. If you look through the series at on the Mayday PAC, you’ll see consideration of the negligible support for campaign finance in another article. Your point here is opaque.

      2. Elliot S. says:

        Also, no matter whether Brown or Rubens wins, the winner will likely lose to Shaheen in November, so it’s a move with high signaling value but little risk.

  4. George Russert says:

    To be fair Jim, why don’t you do a story on the collusion of Democratic organizations and then GOP/Tea Party ones. You write this as if there’s something wrong going on here. Why shouldn’t organizations with the same goals work together? Why did you leave out Rootstrikers, Move to Amend, Wolf Pac,and They also have mutual support efforts. Did it ever occur to you that United we Stand, Divided we Fall? Apparently not. There is NOTHING wrong going on here, and alot that’s right. Besides, contrary to popular opinion, you playing the role of the oldest profession in the world, that of critic, what are YOU doing to end corruption in politics?
    Let your readers ponder that question.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Hello, George.

      1. How interesting that you’re so upset and demanding that I stop sharing information. Apparently I hit at something raw for you as part of those efforts.

      2. You mistake me for someone who is convinced by cliches placed in sequence. United we’re probably conformists being snookered, divided we’re a democracy of people with differing perspectives.

      3. I didn’t leave out Please feel free to share the information you have regarding these other connections. I’d appreciate that.

      4. Besides participation in social movements that ask for my time and not just my money and trust, I am involved in work on increasing transparency in governmental information systems. But if you mean “do you have your own Super PAC?” — then well, no, you’re right about that.

      1. Elliot S. says:

        “United we’re probably conformists being snookered, divided we’re a democracy of people with differing perspectives.”

        This is a sentiment that makes me sad. Why give up hope that there are political principles that everyone can agree on? After all, if there exists such a thing as right and wrong, and people are capable of knowing right from wrong, wouldn’t they eventually come to agree upon the right? It seems like appealing to “differing perspectives” is just an excuse for one side (usually the Right, but often the Left as well) to refuse to let itself enter into dialogue with the other and try to understand its point of view.

        So, to sum up, I think that political unity is a really worthwhile goal (and the only real chance of sustainable change occurring) – but based on the above, I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

        1. Jim Cook says:

          Thanks for writing, Elliot. My statement (which says “probably”, not always) comes from a life of seeing leaders trot out calls for “unity” in order to obtain what they want in a time of political advantage. I admit I’m a cynic on that point.

          The political principles that everyone can agree on tend to be the principles that everyone does agree on, right? Those get tackled fairly simply. What’s left over are the issues that not everyone agrees on, and the reason that there’s disagreement and dissent and nonconformity and protest and divisiveness on these issues is because, deep down, people are not unified. And in a society that values freedom of thought and freedom of speech and inclusiveness in the political process, disunity is not only OK, but healthy. I’d rather have real disagreements than fake unanimity.

          That’s not to say that I don’t believe in coalition formation, or trying to find ways in which two sides who don’t agree on Topic A and B might agree on Topic C. I believe in technical innovation and trying to convince people through discussion and the dissemination of knowledge. These are ways to solve problems in politcs, but they aren’t the same as unity.

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