Seth Moulton enters 2020 race with impressive fundraising pedigree

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On Monday, Iraq War veteran Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) joined the crowded Democratic field and became the fourth current Democratic House member to run for president in 2020. Since first joining the House in 2014, Moulton has built an impressive fundraising apparatus that includes a leadership PAC and two joint fundraising committees.

Moulton’s announcement video highlighted his service as a Marine while criticizing the Iraq War, calling it “built on a lie.” He also called on the current generation to step up and “defeat tyranny” the same way the Greatest Generation did in the 1940s. In the video, Moulton said as president he would cut defense spending, build a “cyber wall” to prevent Russian hacking and “restore our moral authority.”

Moulton’s team confirmed that his campaign won’t be accepting corporate PAC money, falling in line with the rest of the declared field.

After graduating from Harvard University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in physics, Moulton served in one of the first infantry platoons to enter Baghdad in 2003 and ended up serving four tours of Iraq. After his military career ended in 2008, Moulton returned to Harvard in 2011 to earn master’s degrees in business and public policy and was then elected to the House in 2014.

A member of the House’s New Democrat Coalition, Moulton is more moderate than many of the other Democratic candidates, certainly more so than fellow current House member Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). However, he does support a number of progressive policies. Moulton was one of the original 64 House co-sponsors of the Green New Deal framework and supports a $15 minimum wage. He doesn’t support the “Medicare-for-All” policy touted by many of the other Democratic candidates. Notably, Moulton was a leader in the failed attempt to block Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) from winning election as House Speaker for the 116th Congress.

Compared to most of his House counterparts in the race, Moulton has been the better fundraiser. In the 2018 cycle he raised almost $2.4 million in a safe district. Moulton raised more than an average House member in 2014 and 2016. However, his campaign draws in considerably less than the big name Democratic senators running like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Additionally, his campaign committee had comparatively little cash on hand — just $758,032 —- at the end of 2018.

Moulton has flexed his fundraising power through his leadership PAC, Serve America PAC. The PAC focuses on supporting service-orientated candidates and in 2018 endorsed 34 Democratic candidates. In the midterms, it raised $2.3 million and spent more than $1.8 million with $172,700 going to federal candidates. Its top recipient with $12,500 was Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones who narrowly lost the race to unseat Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas). The second-largest recipient, with $10,000, was another veteran, Amy McGrath, who lost a House race in Kentucky. The only Senate candidate to receive a donation from the PAC was Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) who got $9,200.

Much of Serve America PAC’s money, $734,024, went towards salaries and another significant amount, $365,955, was spent on web ads. The PAC produced a number of videos to recruit veterans to run as Democratic candidates.

Moulton also runs two joint fundraising committees — the Serve America Victory Fund and the Moulton Leadership Fund. The Serve America Victory Fund raked in $4.7 million in the 2018 cycle and transferred a massive $4.3 million to candidates in 2018, many of whom were in tight House races. The top two donors to the Victory Fund were Carl Ferenbach, the co-founder of Berkshire Partners and Harvard alum, and Joshua Bekenstein, co-chairman of Bain Capital.

The Molton Leadership Fund joint fundraising committee took in more than $1.4 million. Most of the money, more than $1 million, was transferred to his leadership PAC. Individuals from Lone Pine Capital pop up again tied as the committee’s top donor with $20,800.

Moulton’s top industry is securities and investment which between individuals and PACs contributed $322,595 in the midterm cycle. His second-biggest was education with $109,157, which includes his top 2018 election contributor — individuals from Harvard University, his alma mater, who gave him $43,485.  

While Moulton received substantial money from corporate PACs, he won’t be accepting any as a presidential candidate. In 2018, he received $65,000 from the pharmaceutical industry, securities and investment PACs gave $56,000 and defense aerospace PACs contributed $525,000 — the past support from Wall Street and the military-industrial complex could prove difficult to defend to an increasingly liberal base.

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