Discover more from More Perfect Union
The Third Party Group That Could Sabotage the 2024 Election
We went to a No Labels town hall. Some of its own members fear it’s a front for electing Trump.
By Ash Peterson, More Perfect Union
The dark money group No Labels, which is laying the groundwork to run a third-party presidential bid in 2024, announced Monday that it has won ballot access in 10 states, including expected battlegrounds like Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina.
No Labels describes itself as a "centrist" campaign to "bring people together” to counter “extremism” in politics. Its leaders say they’re likely to run a presidential ticket in the event of a rematch between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
And No Labels is overwhelmingly bankrolled by billionaires and corporate executives, including several heads of private equity firms. Of 36 recently disclosed donors who are funding No Labels’ ballot access campaign, all but two are current or former corporate executives or an executive’s spouse, according to the investigative outlet Sludge.
We sent our cameras to a recent No Labels town hall in New Hampshire and learned that even some of its own members are concerned that the group has become a front for re-electing Donald Trump.
“There’s a lot of dark money floating around”
Eric Elbot, the chief executive of a DC-area technology firm, has attended No Labels gatherings since the first one in 2015, and he said he’s seen the group transform over the years.
“I've watched this organization grow, and for the first time, it has the possibility of being a pivotal player — both in a positive way and in a slightly scary way too,” Elbot told More Perfect Union.
“In politics, you have to know where the money's coming from, and there's a lot of dark money floating around,” Elbot told us. “I don't know where the money's coming from, and that is a significant piece of knowledge to get at the present.”
“The idea that this could hurt Biden more than it can hurt Trump suggests that the money is coming from the right,” he added.
Elbot bristled at the notion of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) — who headlined the New Hampshire town hall — leading a No Labels presidential ticket.
“I think this organization would do better to recruit Liz Cheney for the presidential nomination so that it would carve into the Republican vote rather than a Joe Manchin carving into the Democratic vote,” he said.
Another No Labels member from New Hampshire noted the critics who are calling the group’s presidential campaign “a pro-Trump sort of thing,” and he’s sympathetic. “It's a legitimate concern. It really is.”
Former Rep. Tom Downey (D-NY) was more explicit: “This is a dark money operation attempting to pick somebody to elect Donal Trump.”
Downey is leading a new bipartisan organization, Citizens to Save Our Republic, that has the specific goal of fighting No Labels.
“What I think No Labels is about is running a…third-party candidate that will siphon votes from Joe Biden and put Donald Trump back in the White House,” he said.
No Labels relies on a mixture of super PACs, joint fundraising committees, and nonprofit advocacy groups to carry out its political work—each of which is structured to allow No Labels to conceal the identities of donors, according to Sludge.
In New Hampshire, we asked former Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a leader of No Labels, to reveal the organization’s top contributors, but he declined. “We're simply trying to get ballot access in all 50 states,” Upton responded. “As a consequence, we're not required to release the names of donors.”
But sleuthing has uncovered several of them.
They include Harlan Crow – the man who lavished gifts on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – who gave the group more than $100,000. Crow also helped No Labels connect with other donors between 2019 and 2021.
Other major past donors include billionaire Trump supporter and former New York City mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis and Republican megadonor and hedge fund founder Nelson Peltz, board chair of the Wendy’s restaurant chain.
Peltz and several other prominent No Labels funders — Louis Bacon, billionaire CEO of hedge fund Moore Capital Management; Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of private equity titan Blackstone, and James Murdoch, former CEO of 20th Century Fox — are also recent donors to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ).
This all speaks to the irony of No Labels’ claim to be focused on curbing political extremism. The group is not simply funded by major Trump donors but also aligned with the two senators, Sinema and Manchin, who helped kill several broadly popular planks of Biden’s agenda that would have helped working people. Those include policies with bipartisan backing like funding for universal pre-k, affordable child care, paid family and medical leave for all workers, and expanding Medicare to cover hearing aids and dental care.
And now, apparently, the organization is pulling out all the stops to make sure none of that happens anytime soon. Watch our deep dive into No Labels here.