Conservative rock star Gov. Scott Walker isn’t a presidential candidate yet, but he has assembled the political equivalent of a band, complete with roadies and a set list of greatest hits. Now, he’s even got an unofficial fan club.
A new super PAC named Go Big Go Bold PAC has begun soliciting unlimited donations, blasting out emails and promoting Walker’s potential candidacy through its website, www.goscottgo.com.
The group is one of hundreds that have popped up in recent years after federal court decisions lifted decades-old campaign finance restrictions, campaign experts said. Such groups can run the gamut from promoting the interests of their preferred candidate to padding the bank accounts of their organizers.
“Donors now are very leery about simply giving money to a group that holds itself out as supporting any given candidate,” said Stefan Passantino, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and treasurer of a super PAC affiliated with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, another potential presidential candidate.
If Walker runs for president, which he is widely expected to do, he already has an official fan club (sticking with the original analogy).
In January, he launched Our American Revival, a 527 nonprofit political group that has hired dozens of staffers in multiple states. That staff is expected to move over to Walker’s campaign operation once the second-term governor makes a presidential run official.
Walker has already been headlining fundraisers for OAR. If he becomes a candidate, the group could continue raising millions of dollars from wealthy donors and boost Walker’s candidacy, so long as it doesn’t coordinate with Walker or his campaign, which would be subject to a $2,700 individual contribution limit.
Similarly Go Big Go Bold can raise unlimited funds, run ads promoting Walker and is barred from coordinating with him if he becomes a candidate.
But unlike OAR, the group and others like it are not affiliated with Walker, according to OAR spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. She wasn’t dismissive of the group, though, calling it a “good sign of how people view him and his principles.”
“Only thing I could say is that anyone out there that wants to talk about Walker and his reform-minded principles should,” Kukowski said.
Such groups are a relatively new phenomenon in presidential campaigns, made possible by the 2010 federal court decisions Citizens United v. FEC and SpeechNow v. FEC. The decisions cleared the way for corporations, unions and nonprofits to raise unlimited funds to make independent expenditures on elections.
Passantino, whose Opportunity and Freedom PAC has former Perry advisers attached to it, just as Walker’s OAR is staffed with his own advisers, said among donors “there is a great deal more skepticism and desire to see a return on investment than there has been in the past.”
“The most successful super PACs in the last two cycles have been the ones that have people associated with them that have historically had very close personal ties to the person who is potentially running,” he said.
The organizer of Go Big Go Bold is Bob Adams, a tea party activist from Kearneysville, West Virginia, who founded the group Revive America USA, which on its website claims to have 250,000 members nationwide. The group’s first move was to back the ultimately unsuccessful recount in the race lost by former U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla.
Adams also served as 2012 campaign manager for West Virginia GOP U.S. Senate candidate John Raese, who lost to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat. Adams’ political career includes work for former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, 2000 presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and the American Legislative Exchange Council. He has run unsuccessfully for state treasurer and state Senate.
Adams did not respond to multiple email and phone requests for an interview.
Adams filed a statement of organization for Go Big Go Bold with the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 25. He acquired the group’s website on Feb. 4, according to online records. A week earlier, Walker made a national splash at the Iowa Freedom Summit and unveiled his “Go Big, Go Bold” theme.
Since the 2012 presidential election, candidates have wanted to have super PACs that are closely associated with them, said Paul S. Ryan, a lawyer with the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. Most of the other leading presidential contenders, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have some kind of political nonprofit acting as a precursor to a campaign.
“What candidates don’t like to see is someone telling the world they are someone’s Super PAC,” Ryan said. “They don’t want rogue super PACs raising money for them and raising money from supporters.”
Passantino said Super PACs helped 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich survive as long as he did in the nomination process. In 2014, they helped the business community in many local races promote more moderate candidates. They’ll likely continue to play a major role in the 2016 campaign.
Based on information available online, Passantino said, Adams appears to be a political entrepreneur looking to develop a client.