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No Labels makes its choice
No Labels claims to be a non-partisan centrist organization. It describes itself as a movement for the "politically homeless." But in practice, it has supported Republicans and very conservative Democrats. This year, No Labels has spent millions to secure ballot access across the country to put the group in position to run a candidate for president in 2024.
So far, it has succeeded in 11 states. No Labels says it is on track to secure ballot access in 20 states by the end of the year, and all 50 by election day 2024. It is a very serious, very well-funded effort that could help Donald Trump win. That's because voters who dislike Trump and President Biden tend to vote for Biden. A No Labels candidate could siphon those votes to whoever No Labels nominate, giving Trump a critical edge.
On its official website, No Labels says it is not trying to elect Trump but is committed to giving voters more choices.
"Never before has such a large number of Americans expressed their concerns and expressed their views and their aspirations for more choices," No Labels' Benjamin Chavis told the Associated Press. No Labels' commitment to giving voters more choices, however, appears sporadic.
The group says it is not a political party, but in Arizona, No Labels needed to be recognized as a political party in order to get a line on the ballot. Under Arizona law, to qualify as a political party, a group must submit a petition signed by more than 1.3% of voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election, or 34,127 valid signatures. No Labels, using paid canvassers, submitted 56,695 signatures and was recognized as a new party by the Secretary of State on March 8, 2023. "The No Labels Party has exceeded the minimum signature requirement and, therefore, qualifies as a new party for federal, statewide, and legislative races in the 2024 Primary and General Elections under Arizona law," Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D) said in a statement.
That's when the trouble started.
Two candidates filed "Statements of Interest" to run for office in the No Labels primary. Tyson Draper declared his interest in running for U.S. Senate in a No Labels primary. And Richard Grayson declared his interest in running for Corporation Commissioner, the state body that regulates electricity and other matters, under the No Labels banner.
No Labels was not happy. The group wrote to Fontes and asked him to exclude both candidates from the ballot. So much for more choices.
No Labels says it is not interested in holding primary elections and only wants to nominate candidates for federal office. Fontes' office rejected this argument, telling No Labels it was legally obligated to accept letters of interest, the first step to an official candidacy, from anyone qualified to run. “The Arizona Secretary of State disagrees with your assertion that a newly recognized political party can choose to deprive its own voters of their constitutionally protected freedom of association,” State Elections Director Colleen Connor wrote in a letter on September 22. No Labels has vowed to file a lawsuit challenging the Secretary of State's decision.
The issue appears grounded in legal precedent. The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in 2008 that "a ballot-qualified party with its own primary can’t disallow anyone registered in that party from filing in that party’s primary, regardless of the wishes of the party."
Why is No Labels so concerned about keeping Draper and Grayson off the ballot? The unsolicited candidates, particularly Grayson, might force No Labels to disclose its donors.
No Labels has kept its donors secret, relying on a 2010 federal appellate court decision, Unity08 v. FEC. Unity08, like No Labels, was considering nominating a candidate for president and spending money on ballot access. The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the Unity08 was "not subject to regulation as a political committee" by the FEC "unless and until it selects a 'clearly identified' candidate."
Grayson, if he runs for Corporation Commissioner as a No Labels candidate, could undermine No Label's position. No Labels would be involved in state politics and, arguably, would be required to comply with state law. Grayson, a perennial candidate, has said he is running "to force [No Labels] to comply with Arizona's campaign finance laws."
The Arizona Democratic Party has filed a complaint with Fontes seeking to exclude No Labels from the ballot until it comes into compliance with Arizona campaign finance disclosure requirements.
Who is paying for No Label's $70 million scheme?
No Labels is reportedly spending $70 million preparing to run a candidate in the 2024 presidential election but has not voluntarily disclosed any information about its donors. According to Nancy Jacobson, who runs the group, “what’s best for Democracy is confidentiality.”
But in 2018, the Daily Beast obtained "internal documents" that revealed "prominent executives from Fortune 500 companies and leading financial-services firms have contributed to No Labels’ 501(c)(4) dark-money group and its affiliated 501(c)(3) charitable arm." The group received large donations from top executives running hedge funds and private equity firms, including Bain Capital, Centaurus Advisors, Oaktree Capital Management, Trian Fund Management, and Apollo Global Management." The group has also solicited donations from prominent Trump supporters, "including PayPal founder Peter Thiel, businessman Foster Friess, and Home Depot founder Ken Langone." The New Republic, citing an internal document, reported that between 2019 and 2021, No Labels received $130,000 from right-wing billionaire Harlan Crow.
In March 2023, Semafor reported that "Wall Street backers of U.S. President Joe Biden are holding back on supporting him in the 2024 race, citing rules proposed by his Securities and Exchange Commission that target the financial services industry." These executives are particularly upset with SEC chairman Gary Gensler who "has taken on everything from climate disclosure regulations to market-structure rewrites."
Is No Labels a thinly disguised effort by Wall Street and Trump supporters to deny Biden a second term?