Mayday PAC is an American crowd-funded non-partisan Super PAC created by Harvard Law School professor and activist Lawrence Lessig. Its purpose is to help elect candidates to the Congress to pass campaign finance reform. It is notable for raising large sums from numerous contributors in a short span of time – nearly $11 million in 2014 – and was described in the Los Angeles Times as the "super PAC to end all super PACs." The group spent over $10 million in the November 2014 elections, but its strategic plan of electing candidates friendly to campaign finance reform failed.
In August 2015, shortly before announcing his candidacy for President of the United States, Lessig resigned from the PAC and was replaced by board member Zephyr Teachout. Teachout left the post in December 2015 when she announced she was running for Congress in New York State and was replaced by Cyrus Patten, longtime anti-corruption advocate and policy reformer.
Mayday PAC has since announced a new, local approach, citing "Across the country, citizens are passing reforms to their local campaign finance laws. This takes courage that is currently lacking in Congress."
Mayday PAC's original strategy had four stages: (1) in 2014 testing intervention in Congressional races, (2) in 2016 electing a Congressional majority in favor of reform, (3) in 2017 winning election reform legislation, and (4) pressing for whatever Constitutional reform is necessary to secure the reform.
Lawrence Lessig has advocated electoral reform for many years, and conceived the idea of a crowdfunded Super PAC as a way to achieve such reform. Mayday PAC began in May 2014, but before officially launching the fund raising effort, Lessig led 200 people on a walk from Dixville Notch to Nashua in the New Hampshire, stopping at coffee shops and small events to talk with people about money in politics, to generate media attention; further walks are planned. He explained, "Yes, we want to spend big money to end the influence of big money... Ironic, I get it. But embrace the irony."
The fund-raising plan was a variation on traditional crowd funding approaches in that specified fund-raising targets must be met by certain dates. Lessig explained that the immediate goal is to raise enough money to sway five elections to Congress. He said, " We've structured this as a series of matched-contingent goals. We've got to raise $1 million in 30 days; if we do, we'll get that $1 million matched. Then we've got to raise $5 million in 30 days; if we do, we'll get that $5 million matched as well. If both challenges are successful, then we'll have the money we need to compete in 5 races in 2014. Based on those results, we’ll launch a (much much) bigger effort in 2016—big enough to win."
On July 28, 2014, the PAC began a $12-million advertising campaign for the 2014 midterm elections. The plan was to spend the funds electing members of congress who are committed to getting money out of politics, regardless of their party affiliation. $4 million of this money was to be spent in Senate races in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Targeted races in 2014
The Mayday PAC spent significant money helping the campaign of each of these candidates in 2014. Each candidate was viewed by Mayday PAC as a supporter of campaign finance reform.
- Ruben Gallego (D, AZ), who won his primary race on August 26 and was elected in November 2014, becoming the only winning non-incumbent supported by Mayday PAC, which spent $149,999 in supporting him. He supports the Government by the People Act which favors establishing a system of elections in which candidates who choose to accept only small donations receive matching funds. Formerly elected in 2010, he served as assistant minority leader in the Arizona House of Representatives.
- Carol Shea-Porter (D, NH), an incumbent who lost her election, despite $299,999 spent by Mayday on her behalf. She was the first woman to be elected to a federal office from New Hampshire. She was a vocal opponent of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and supported the Consumer Protection Act. She voted for the CARD Act.
- Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R, NC), who won his election, was an incumbent who received $99,999 in support from Mayday. He was the only Republican member of Congress to publicly support campaign finance reform and the only Republican co-sponsor of the Government by the People Act (matching funds for small donors) and the DISCLOSE Act, legislation to reveal the donors behind campaign advertisements. He is also a critic of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
- Jim Rubens (R, NH), who lost his bid to defeat Scott Brown in the New Hampshire Republican U.S. Senate primary, 24.5% to 49.9%. Mayday spent $1,512,261 in favor of Rubens, plus $128,747 against Brown, who went on to lose the general election to incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.
- Staci Appel (D, IA), who lost her election, despite $17,334 spent by Mayday in support of her, and $714,638 spent attacking her opposition, David Young. She was a former state senator who had pledged to support the Government By The People Act (public matching funds for small donors) and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. As a state senator, Appel sponsored legislation (SSB 1173) that would have established public financing of elections in Iowa for the first time.
- Rick Weiland (D, SD), who lost his election, despite $875,390 in spending from Mayday and $290,522 spent against his opponent, governor Mike Rounds. Weiland was regional director of FEMA, director of the South Dakota AARP, and a previous candidate for South Dakota's at-large congressional district.
- Greg Orman (I, KS), who lost his election, despite $1,430,775 from Mayday spent attacking his opponent, incumbent Senator Pat Roberts.
- Paul Clements (D, MI), who lost his election, despite $403,573 from Mayday plus $1,684,501 from Mayday spent attacking his opponent, incumbent Fred Upton.
|Goal||Amount needed||Date needed||Amount raised||Date raised||Match amount *||Sources|
|Raise money||$1 million||May 31, 2014||$1.1 million||May 13, 2014||$1 million (total)||Los Angeles Times, Politico, TechDirt|
|2014 Final Fundraising||$10,947,947 (final)||November 4, 2014||MAYDAY PAC,|
- Match donors for $1 million: Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, Chris Anderson, Brad Burnham, David Milner, Fred Wilson, Joanne Wilson, Vin Ryan.
- David Leonhart, May 1, 2014, The New York Times, Lawrence Lessig Starts a Super PAC, Accessed May 7, 2014, "Mr. Lessig wants to first raise $1 million in 30 days and then an additional $5 million. ... Lessig says that he will ensure that the amounts will be matched, presumedly from rich donors."
- Brian Fung (2014-07-07). "Larry Lessig's super PAC to end super PACs raised $2.5 million in just 2 days. Here's what comes next". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-08-27.
- Lawrence Lessig (2014). "What do you mean by "Citizen-Funded, Kick-started" Super PAC?". Mayday PAC. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Mark Murray, NBC News, May 15, 2014, Campaign Cash Reformers: If You Can't Beat'em, Join'em, Accessed May 16, 2014, "Lessig tells NBC News that Mayday PAC has already raised more than $1 million in contributions from 11,000 donors (so about $90 per donor), and that the amount will increase from a combination of large and small donations"
- MAYDAY PAC (2014-11-18). "Donor Data". MAYDAY PAC.
- Maeve Reston, May 23, 2014, Los Angeles Times, Harvard professor's 'super PAC' aims to end power of 'super PACs', Accessed May 26, 2014,
- "The Super PAC to end Super PACs makes a strategic retreat". Bloomberg News. March 17, 2015. Retrieved August 18, 2015.
- Tau, Byron; Vogel, Kenneth (November 6, 2014). "How to waste $10 million". Politico. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
- "The Plan: A Critical Mass of Reformers". Retrieved April 19, 2016.
- Lawrence Lessig (2014). "The Plan (on Mayday.US)". Mayday PAC. Retrieved 2014-08-30.
- Alesh Houdek (November 16, 2011). "Has a Harvard Professor Mapped Out the Next Step for Occupy Wall Street?". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
Lawrence Lessig's call for state-based activism on behalf of a Constitutional Convention could provide the uprooted movement with a political project for winter
- Kaitlyn Schallhorn (2014). "Harvard Professor, Obama Aide Fight Super PACs By Creating A Super PAC". Fox News. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Mike Masnick, May 1, 2014, TechDirt, Larry Lessig Launches Crowdfunded SuperPAC To Try To End SuperPACs, Accessed May 7, 2014, "an interesting twist on traditional crowdfunding: nothing will happen if the goal isn't met, but if it is, then two interesting things will happen: a matching donation and a second round, seeking $5 million"
- Denver Nicks, May 1, 2014, Time Magazine, Super PAC to End Super PACs: Academic and activist Lawrence Lessig says it's time to "pay the ransom" to take American democracy back from the moneyed interests he says hold it hostage, Accessed May 10, 2014, "The Mayday PAC, as it's called, seeks to raise enough money to sway five House elections in 2014"
- Confessore, Nicholas (29 July 2014). "Spending Big to Fight Big Donors in Campaigns". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
- "Mayday PAC: Outside Spending: Independent Expenditures, Electioneering Communication & Communication Costs by Targeted Candidate". OpenSecrets.
- Ruben Gallego (2014). "Making government accountable to people, not corporations". Archived from the original on 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Carol Shea-Porter (2014). "Congressional Full Biography". US Congress. Archived from the original on 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Carol Shea-Porter (2014). "Shea-Porter Blasts McCutcheon Decision on House Floor". US Congress. Archived from the original on 2014-09-12. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Sue Sturgis (2014). "Bill to strengthen 'government by the people' finds broad support". Facing South. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Danial Strauss (2014). "House Republican joins effort to force vote on Disclose Act". The Hill. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Ruben Gallego (2014). "Political Reform Agenda". Archived from the original on 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Kathie Obradovich (2014). "How ironic: Mayday PAC wants to end all PACS". Retrieved 2014-08-25.
- Stein, Sam (2014-10-09). "Rick Weiland Has A Minivan, $300,000 And A Guitar. Can He Get To The Senate?". Huffpost Politics. Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-08-18.
- Tau, Byron. "Mayday PAC secures matching pledges". Politico. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
- Mike Masnick, May 15, 2014, TechDirt, Lessig's Anti-SuperPAC SuperPAC Raises First $1 Million In Just 12 Days, Accessed May 16, 2014
- Official website
- The Unstoppable Walk to Political Reform Lessig talks on TED
- Campaign Finance and the Nihilist Politics of Resignation, Lessig essay in The Atlantic April 2014