From Beto to Oprah, undeclared 2020 candidates already backed by outside groups

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Former first lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey are just two of many individuals who have seen 2020 draft efforts organized on their behalf. (JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)

As a growing number of potential 2020 Democratic candidates weigh their chances, various PACs have appeared hoping to demonstrate grassroots support and “draft” their favored candidate into running.

Already attracting a lot of attention is unsuccessful 2018 Senate candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). A Politico report claims he is “leaning toward running for president,” and several unaffiliated PACs have been launched since November 2018 with the intention of getting O’Rourke to run.

The Draft Beto PAC, launched on Nov. 23, 2018, is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York and lists Nathan Lerner as its treasurer. Lerner is an Obama 2012 alum and executive director of the Build the Wave grassroots organization and PAC. He also co-founded the website. The Draft Beto PAC has no financial data listed as no filing deadlines have passed since it was registered with the FEC.

Another organization, The We Want Beto Unofficial Street Team 2020 PAC, also launched in 2018. Based in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, the PAC lists Christopher Hopcraft as its treasurer. Hopcraft appears to be a business owner in Michigan and the founder of The World Trade Center Oak Project, according to a Facebook account matching the name in the FEC filing. A website describes the group as an “unofficial activist group dedicated to seeing Texas Representative Robert Francis ‘Beto’ O’Rourke nominated as the contender for President by the Democratic Party.” The PAC has no financial data because no filing deadlines have passed since it was registered.

A third PAC, Draft Beto 2020, is the newest, having been launched on Jan. 2. Based in Boston, the PAC names Gemma Martin as its treasurer. Martin is also listed as the treasurer for the liberal Super PAC Alliance for a Better Rhode Island. A website affiliated with the PAC lists three team members: Lauren Pardi, a former communications manager in the U.S. House of Representatives and for Barack Obama’s 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee; Adam Webster, a Democratic campaign consultant; and Will Herberich, a veteran Democratic campaign worker. Like the other two O’Rourke PACs, this one has no financial data listed on the FEC website since no filing deadlines have passed.

A PAC has also been created with the intention of getting Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to join the race. America Drafts Garcetti, Inc has existed since January 2018. Incorporated in New Mexico, Michael Weber is listed as its chairman and treasurer. Weber ran the #DraftGarcetti campaign and a now-suspended Twitter account, which had reportedly supported Joe Biden and then Michael Bloomberg before settling on Garcetti. According to the FEC website, the PAC had raised $4,040 from five donations between Jan. 2, 2018 until March 30, 2018. The donations came from New Mexico, New York, Indiana, Utah and California. The PAC spent $3,840.00 on operating expenditures, of which the largest amount, $1,000, was spent on fundraising payroll. The PAC filed an FEC report in April 2018 and has missed all of its filing deadlines since.

Although presidential speculation has cooled about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg as the site has been embroiled in controversy over its data sharing policies, there is still a Draft Zuckerberg 2020 PAC operating. With its address listed in Washington D.C., the PAC run by a Mr. Joseph Roberts, has missed every filing deadline since it was created.

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) explores a formal presidential bid, a draft PAC has also formed for her. Michigan for Elizabeth Warren PAC was launched in November 2018. The treasurer of the PAC is Michael McDermott of Westland, Mich. who ran an unsuccessful Democratic primary campaign for the Michigan House of Representatives. The PAC has yet to raise any funds, but has an affiliated website.

When 2018 neared an end, some of the other more unique draft movements petered out. Two PACs, Ready for Michelle 2020 and Friends of Michelle 2020, hoping to enlist former First Lady Michelle Obama, both shuttered without raising any money. Draft Chris Murphy 2020, an effort supporting Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), also was terminated after not raising any cash and missing every filing deadline.

Until August 2018, the Draft Al Franken 2020 PAC looked to encourage former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who resigned from the Senate in January 2018 after allegations of sexual harassment, to run. The PAC successfully raised $2,855 in 2017, only spending $393.43 on federal operating expenses, before it was terminated.

Two celebrities also saw PACs created with the intent of having them enter the 2020 race. Run The Rock 2020 hoped to draft professional wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and National Committee To Draft Oprah Winfrey for President of the United States 2020 wanted the TV star and media figure to run. According to the website affiliated with the Oprah PAC, Cormac Flynn was the founder and national director of the committee and was listed as the treasurer of the PAC in FEC filings. Flynn had been the vice president of the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and had worked on a variety of Democratic candidate campaigns. The website states that “the Draft Committee has voluntarily terminated out of respect for Ms. Winfrey’s statements that she does not intend to run.” The Oprah PAC saw $147.46 in contributions before being terminated in December 2018, while The Rock PAC missed its filing deadlines before shuttering in August 2018.

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