Latino

Democrats rebel against leadership super PAC in expensive Oregon primary 

A million-dollar investment by the Democratic House leadership in an Oregon primary has sparked a blowup between the party establishment and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus campaign arm, which accused leaders of taking Hispanic voters for granted.

House Majority PAC, the largest super PAC supporting Democratic House candidates, threw its weight behind Carrick Flynn, a candidate backed by a cryptocurrency-linked super PAC, in the nine-way Democratic primary to fill a newly-created Oregon House seat, sparking the firestorm.

The Hispanic Caucus campaign arm, Bold PAC, responded by condemning the ad buy in support of Flynn, who is white, in an ethnically diverse district with three women of color on the ballot.

“Voters and candidates of color delivered majorities for Democrats in the 2020 elections. Latina women helped lead the charge by mobilizing communities and voting for Democrats up and down the ballot across the country. Their role in the midterms will be no less critical,” said Bold PAC Chairman Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) in a statement.  

Bold PAC also came out in support of its endorsed candidate, state Rep. Andrea Salinas (D), who is seen as a leading candidate in the race.

“Right now, Democrats should be doubling-down on their investments to empower Latino and Latina candidates like Andrea who are running strong campaigns focused on issues that matter to communities of color and working families. Oregon has never had a Latina or Latino representative in Congress, and the 6th district – which is 21 percent Hispanic – has the opportunity to make history this year,” said Gallego.

Salinas on Monday banded together with five other candidates in the race to cry foul over House Majority PAC’s unusual decision to flood the race with money and back a primary candidate with little electoral experience. 

Salinas; Kathleen Harder, a local doctor; state Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon (D); former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith; Army veteran Cody Reynolds; and Intel engineer Matt West released a joint statement blasting House Majority PAC’s support of Flynn with a nearly-seven-figure ad buy. 

“We strongly condemn House Majority PAC’s unprecedented and inappropriate decision to spend nearly a million dollars in this Democratic primary,” they wrote in a joint statement. 

“House Majority PAC — House Democratic leadership’s Super PAC, allegedly tasked with holding Republicans accountable and electing Democrats to Congress — should not be spending resources to divide Democrats.” 

Flynn, 35, was already the odd man out in the race before the House Majority PAC investment.

A political newcomer and former researcher at Georgetown University, Flynn returned to his native Oregon during the COVID-19 pandemic to work from home advising the government on how to use technology to prevent pandemics.

While House Majority PAC — the country’s largest Democratic super PAC, closely linked to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — set off condemnation from Bold PAC and Flynn’s opponents, his funding sources had already raised eyebrows.  

Flynn was catapulted into politics with support from Protect our Future, a super PAC connected to cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, which has already spent around $6 million to support Flynn in the race. 

West, one of the signers of the group statement against House Majority PAC’s pro-Flynn expenditure, last month asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Flynn inappropriately coordinated with Protect our Future. 

Super PACs are allowed to spend unlimited amounts in support of any candidate if they don’t directly coordinate their strategy with the official campaign; if a PAC wants to coordinate its actions, it is subject to campaign contribution limits. 

Flynn denied West’s allegations, but the new House Majority PAC funding revived the controversy. 

HMP defended the investment, touting Flynn’s credentials. 

“House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic House Majority in 2022, and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards accomplishing that goal. Flynn is a strong, forward-looking son of Oregon who is dedicated to delivering for families in the 6th District,” said HMP Communications Director CJ Warnke in an email. 

Protect our Future and Bankman-Fried have been courting favor with the national Democratic establishment, opening the PAC’s checkbook to support Democratic candidates throughout the country, even at the expense of other Democrats. 

In Georgia, for instance, Protect our Future invested $2 million to support Rep. Lucy McBath (D) in an incumbent-on-incumbent primary against Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D). 

But that investment, already huge for a primary, pales in comparison to the amount Protect our Future spent on Flynn. 

“Carrick is proud to have the backing from a broad coalition of supporters from throughout Oregon’s 6th congressional district, across the state and from all over the country,” said Avital Balwit, Flynn’s campaign manager. 

“The path to keeping the House in Democratic hands starts right here in Oregon’s 6th and Carrick is the only candidate who can solidly carry this district for the Democrats in the fall,” added Balwit. 

The new district, which spans Portland’s wealthy southwest suburbs, agricultural lands and state capital Salem, is likely to be a relatively safe Democratic district. 

But Salinas, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant who served two tours in Vietnam, warned that the crypto and Washington money flooding into the district could turn off voters, playing into the hands of the GOP. 

“For HMP to involve themselves in this is a slap in the face to the voters and to my supporters,” said Salinas. 

“I think that the writing has been on the wall for a while and this tipped all of us over to come together and say ‘this is just wrong, voters don’t want this,’” she added. 

Bold PAC accused the Pelosi-linked PAC of taking Hispanic voters for granted by backing a white candidate in a district that’s one of the few pickup opportunities for the CHC this fall. 

“As the fastest-growing segment of the electorate over the last 20 years, Latino voters represent the country’s second-largest voter bloc by ethnicity – those who take them for granted, do so at their own peril,” said Bold PAC board member Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), a close Pelosi ally. 

The decision to come out against Salinas, a Bold PAC endorsed candidate, also played into grumblings among Hispanic campaign operatives that party leadership is de-prioritizing Latino voters. 

“HMP could’ve reserved these resources defending Frontline Members who desperately need the assistance. Instead, HMP wants to spend in a safe seat against a Latina woman after celebrating Women’s History Month. It’s beyond appalling and tone deaf,” said a senior Democratic strategist. 

And Bold PAC has traditionally transferred its funds to HMP after the primaries, sending between $1.25 and $3 million to the leadership PAC per campaign cycle. 

“The biggest question around all of this is if it affects the relationship where Bold PAC is no longer a large donor to HMP like they’ve been in the past,” said another Democratic operative. 

This story was updated at 4:25 p.m.

Tags Andrea Salinas BOLD PAC Carrick Flynn Congressional Hispanic Caucus House Majority PAC Oregon Ruben Gallego

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