The biggest donor group in Democratic politics privately moves against No Labels

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A powerful network of liberal donors is joining the push to stop No Labels’ threatened plan to launch a third-party presidential run — warning major political funders to stay away from the group.

The donors club, Democracy Alliance, shared its thinking about the bipartisan organization’s operation exclusively with POLITICO. Democrats have grown increasingly concerned that an independent No Labels ticket would function as a spoiler and help former President Donald Trump or another Republican candidate defeat President Joe Biden in 2024.

“No Labels has no chance of winning the 2024 election. But it has a very real chance of tipping that election to Donald Trump and catapulting our country into MAGA authoritarianism,” said Pamela Shifman, president of the Democracy Alliance. “They want to splinter the coalition of voters who banded together to defeat Donald Trump in 2020.”

Democracy Alliance also met privately Wednesday with the center-left group Third Way and progressive organization MoveOn to discuss No Labels, according to several people familiar with the event who were granted anonymity to talk about a closed-door event. Third Way and Move On normally sit on opposite ends of the Democratic Party’s spectrum, but they have teamed up recently in an aggressive effort to undercut No Labels’ floated plan.

The goal of the meeting Wednesday was to sound the alarm for leading donors and fundraisers in the party, and urge them to prevent the well-heeled people they know from giving to No Labels. The meeting of a few dozen people, including several donors and donor advisers, took place on Zoom.

“I would be surprised if any of the people that were on that call are No Labels donors themselves, but many of them in their networks know people who probably are No Labels donors,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way. “What we’re trying to convince them of is not that No Labels is a bad organization, but that this project is very, very dangerous.”

No Labels chief strategist Ryan Clancy slammed the Democracy Alliance in a statement.

“It’s hard to find a more striking example of Washington hypocrisy than a group calling itself ‘Democracy Alliance’ mobilizing to stop No Labels from getting on voting ballots in 2024,” he said. “Most Americans have this quaint idea that democracy means the people decide who they can vote for. Democracy Alliance apparently has a different definition, where a few people meeting in D.C. get to manage Americans’ electoral choices for them.”

No Labels has signaled that if it is clear by Super Tuesday that the presidential race will be between Trump and Biden, and there is a path to victory, then it will put up a third-party candidate. The group has secured access to the ballot in multiple states, and reportedly has a $70 million budget for a potential third-party effort.

Rahna Epting, executive director of MoveOn, said that at the Wednesday meeting with donors the “first ask was please talk to everyone you know about this, especially those that are political donors.” The “second ask was give to entities and organizations that are doing the work to try to stop them.

Third Way and MoveOn gave a presentation to the donors laying out No Labels’ actions as well as data that they argue shows that winning as a third-party candidate is not feasible.

Dick Gephardt, the former House Democratic leader who launched a bipartisan group to oppose a third-party bid, also attended the meeting Wednesday.

Bennett said that, as is typical when he makes these pitches, he got a question at the confab about whether the groups are going to run ads against No Labels.

“The answer to that is no, not yet. This is really a question that is being debated among political insiders and elites at the moment,” he said. “And No Labels has said they may not go forward with this. And what we’re hoping is that we can help convince them not to do it, and therefore we will never have to run a big public-facing campaign.”