COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the first major Democratic candidate to announce a challenge to President Donald Trump, had only been in Iowa for a few hours when she laid down a marker with implications for every other Democrat who might run for president in 2020.
“We ought to be building a movement, and the way we do that is with lots of involvement from lots of people, not having billionaires buy these campaigns, whether we’re talking about super PACs or self-funding,” Warren told reporters after the first rally of her campaign, held in an event space attached to a bowling alley in this city on the Missouri River. “As Democrats, in a primary, we should lock arms and make sure this is the party of the people.”
Warren’s call to disavow super PACs and self-funding, along with a growing movement within the Democratic Party to reject donations from Wall Street and business interests, is set to reshape how Democratic candidates bring in the millions of dollars necessary to power their primary campaigns. And it’s a sign that the way dozens of 2020 candidates raise their cash will be just as important as how much they bring in and how they spend it.
It also represents a continuation of two trends from the 2018 elections. The first saw Democrats collect more than $1.2 billion in online, small-dollar donations via ActBlue. The second saw more than three-quarters of newly elected congressional Democrats pledge to say no to corporate PACs, which bundle donations from a business’ employees and funnel them to elected officials. The performance of candidates like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) — who narrowly lost to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz — established the political potency of swearing off super and corporate PACs, although not without some pushback.