Democratic Super PAC investment in Oregon race stirs controversy

A powerful super PAC controlled by allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has endorsed a relatively unknown Democratic candidate in a competitive Oregon primary, sparking concern among Democratic lawmakers that the super PAC is distorting a race with big money and neglect the qualified Latin competitors.

The House Majority PAC bought $1 million worth of TV ads supporting Carrick Flynn, a tech and disaster preparedness expert seeking the Democratic nomination in Oregon’s newly formed 6th congressional district.

Critics are wary of the House Majority PAC’s motive for endorsing Flynn, a first-time nominee who already has the backing of another super PAC funded by a cryptocurrency billionaire. They also call out the House Majority PAC for siding with two candidates who would be the first Latinas to represent Oregon in Congress and for wasting resources in an internal Democratic battle in a critical midterm election. .

Flynn’s six main opponents – State Senator Andrea Salinas, State Senator Teresa Alonso Leon, physician Kathleen Harder, former Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, cryptocurrency investor Cody Reynolds and cryptocurrency developer Matt West — issued a joint statement on Tuesday calling the ad buy “unprecedented” and “inappropriate.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who did not endorse the race, tweeted that the House Majority PAC’s intervention was “completely wrong”.

The super PAC’s support for Flynn is especially disappointing for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ BOLD PAC, which endorsed Salinas. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), president of BOLD PAC, and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona), president of BOLD PAC, noted that Oregon’s sixth-largest population is more than one-fifth Latino.

“Right now, Democrats should double down on investments to empower Latino and Latino candidates like Andrea who run strong campaigns focused on issues that matter to communities of color and working families,” Garcia and Gallego said in a statement. communicated.

Although Democrats are at high risk of losing the House in November, Oregon’s 6th, which includes Salem and parts of Portland, isn’t exactly a ripe target for Republicans. President Joe Biden would have won the new district by 13 percentage points.

CJ Warnke, spokesperson for the House Majority PAC, nevertheless cited eligibility as the group’s main reason for supporting Flynn.

“House Majority PAC is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to secure a Democratic majority in the House in 2022, and we believe supporting Carrick Flynn is a step towards achieving that goal,” Warnke said in a statement.

The dust in Oregon’s 6th, where voters will select a Democratic candidate on May 17, highlights the influx of campaign money from the nation’s new class of cryptocurrency millionaires and billionaires.

Much of Flynn’s financial backing comes from 30-year-old Sam Bankman-Fried, who founded a cryptocurrency exchange in 2019 and is now worth tens of billions of dollars. Bankman-Fried was one of the biggest donors to Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Bankman-Fried’s super PAC, Protect Our Future, has spent nearly $5 million supporting Flynn. The group previously endorsed Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett, a progressive frontrunner, in a primary to succeed incumbent Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) in Texas’ 30th congressional district. With help from the super PAC, Crockett easily led the first round of voting and is the favorite in the May 24 runoff.

Oregon State Sen. Andrea Salinas (D), who has PAC support from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, demanded answers about the House Majority PAC’s intervention in Oregon’s 6th.

Andrea Salinas for Congress

Campaign activity from cryptocurrency investors, developers and entrepreneurs is gathering pace as some industry players – and their champions at convention – lobby the Securities and Exchange Commission for less stringent regulatory enforcement.

Bankman-Fried cut something from a different profile, calling, at least, to more regulation.

His political commitment is rather motivated, he says, by “effective altruism” — a form of high-impact quantitative philanthropy that has developed a cult following among some technologists.

Bankman-Fried and his younger brother Gabrielle — both adherents of “effective altruism” — have identified funding federal pandemic preparedness as a top priority for maximizing global well-being.

The elder Bankman-Fried recruited data scientist and Democratic pollster Michael Sadowsky to orchestrate Protect Our Future’s political strategy.

Sadowsky is a former employee of David Shor, another prominent data scientist and Democratic pollster, who also backs Flynn.

“I knew these people when they had no money,” Shor said of Bankman-Fried and his fellow pandemic preparedness crusaders. “They were really obsessed with preventing pandemics.”

Flynn does not mention cryptocurrency on his website, but does include a section on pandemic preparedness funding.

Avital Balwit, Flynn’s campaign manager, hailed the super PAC’s support as proof that Flynn’s message “resonates clearly, not just here in the 6th District, but with national advocates of pandemic preparedness, equity and voter engagement, and Democratic leaders across the country. ”

But critics of the House Majority PAC endorsement are suspicious of Bankman-Fried’s motives — and those of the House Majority PAC. In an interview with HuffPost, Salinas, the seemingly consensus pick of labor unions, environmental groups and progressive organizations, hinted that Bankman-Fried could fund the House Majority PAC’s investment in the race.

“Why is this happening and where is this money coming from?” Salinas asked.

“Sam has not been silent about his goal of influencing Washington, DC, when it comes to the cryptocurrency industry,” she added. “So we could establish a connection there.”

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